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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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November 2014
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Kindle Content Reviews: Reading, Writing, and Understanding Their Impact

There is always going to be a certain amount of skepticism that has to be exercised toward online reviews of any sort.  Those who are least satisfied will also always be the most motivated to post something, and there isn’t necessarily any way to confirm whether the problem being experienced was in any way the related to the product experience that another customer might get.  With something like the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, or the Amazon Appstore for Android now that the Kindle Fire is around, this can be especially problematic for a provider.

These authors and developers often have no other major avenue through which to sell the product of their labor, which means that a misinformed negative review can have a major impact.  However much we might wish it weren’t so, the first thing many people look at when considering a new book, app, toy, etc., is the overall review.  Particularly the number of truly negative ones.  Now, Amazon has done some good by adding in a product review rating system that allows users to tag particularly helpful or unhelpful contributions, but that only matters if you actually go so far as to read them.

If you are considering a purchase, especially with regard to digital content from the Appstore, it might be particularly helpful to read carefully.  Right now, as the attempt to cater to an impressively diverse selection of Android devices can be problematic, many apps are overrun by 1-Star reviews for being incompatible with specific phones or tablets.  It is not unknown for this to be the case even when owners of these devices could clearly see that their device was not listed as compatible.  Don’t let this sort of behavior dissuade you from picking up an otherwise excellent piece of software.

If you are writing the review of an eBook or App, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

First, unlike what you might expect, anything 3-Star and below is considered a negative review.  If you rate a product below 4-Stars, you are essentially telling Amazon that this is not a product that you would recommend to anybody.  If the average product rating drops to 3-Star, that is exactly how the site will treat it and potential customers will rarely, if ever, be directed to it based on their interests.  This can have a devastating effect on the income of the creator.

Second, it is bad form to judge a product based on what you wish it did rather than how well it does what it claimed.  If a book presents itself as a romance but is actually about corporate espionage, then there’s plenty of room for complaint.  If you felt that the calendar app you downloaded would have been better if it had the ability to import the Smurfs theme as an event reminder, that would generally be considered outside the realm of what you are meant to review unless sound file importing was specifically advertised.  5-Stars means that the purchase is a good example of exactly what it claimed to be.  4-Stars means that it generally met expectations, but probably could have been more successful.  Anything 3-Star and below means something was significantly wrong with it.

Please try not to penalize authors or developers who choose to make content for the Kindle and Kindle Fire due to things out of their control.  If Amazon takes longer than you would like to deliver your files, it isn’t their fault.  If you had hoped that despite being advertised for Honeycomb an App would work on your Android 2.1 device, the failure is not the developer’s fault.  Negative reviews on individual products that Amazon.com provides will generally not have any effect on the company as a whole, and often it is likely that they never see these complaints at all unless representatives are specifically directed to them.  Keep in mind who might be affected by your criticisms.

Limited Time Offer: Free 2-Day Kindle Shipping On All Models

In order to make sure that the maximum number of people are able to get their new Kindle purchases in time for Christmas, Amazon has decided to offer Free Two Day Shipping to anybody who completes their transaction before 8pm Pacific Time (UTC-8) on December 21st.  This offer extends to every model currently available, from the $79 Kindle 4 to the $199 Kindle Fire tablet, and will cover shipping to any location in the continental United States.

The Kindle line, and eReaders in general at this point really, make excellent gifts.  The price has come down to the point of being practically large-scale impulse purchases, and the fact that you can expect ongoing support and content updates for the indefinite future makes a strong case or the practicality of ownership. Owning a Kindle eReader provides access to practically any title on the market today at the touch of a button with no need to worry about shipping, travel, or retail crowds.  This last one is likely to be a welcome benefit for people doing their holiday shopping this late in the year.

Additionally, according to Amazon the Kindle Fire is the most gifted, most wished for, bestselling item on the entire site and has been since before it was even released.  Like the eReader counterparts, it provides users with access to a huge library of content.  In addition to eBooks, you can also draw on a large App Store, all of Amazon Instant Video, and basically any digital content Amazon handles.  Top that off with access to services like Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and other content streaming services and you have a media consumption experience it is hard to argue against.  Keep in mind that each Kindle Fire comes with a month of free Amazon Prime membership and the access to all the benefits that that entails (free Instant Video selections, free 2-Day Shipping, etc), which means that anybody who gets one as a gift will have a chance to most of its more enjoyable features even without any post-purchase investment.

Keep in mind when considering Kindles as gifts that you can also include eBooks to go with them.  At present, all US customers have the option of choosing to gift a Kindle Edition eBook to anybody with an email address.  This will work as a cheaper gift option for anybody who might already be using a Kindle app for iOS or Android, incidentally.  Also, while I have no personal experience with the feature, you can also apparently also schedule your purchase’s delivery for exactly when you want them to get it.  This could help a lot when it comes to scheduling since, even with instant delivery and a smartphone, it is annoying to be making last second gift acquisitions.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of Amazon’s offer, keep an eye on the clock.  This will certainly not be extended, given their lack of direct control over shipping matters.

Enjoy your holidays!

Kindle Meets Video Games: Ambitious Fan Makes Skyrim Book Compilation

When it comes to video games, Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls franchise is a giant and the latest installment, Skyrim, received an almost ridiculous amount of attention in the months leading up to its release.  It’s one of the largest, most ambitious developments in the genre so far and the depth of the game world is such that you’re faced with around 16 square miles of highly detailed world space packed with interactive content.  Now, fans can take some of that to go on your Kindle thanks to a big fan who took the time to reformat some of the in-game text for eReaders.

In various places throughout Skyrim players are likely to come across books.  Some are obvious, others might require some fairly extreme efforts to get to.  Regardless of their “physical” situation, they serve to enrich the game world by offering interesting bits of history and culture built up across thousands of simulated years.  The writing is surprisingly good, if predictably cliched for the most part.  When put together they make up a huge collection of relatively short stories and articles.

The eBook that Skyrim fan Capaneus put together contains literally every bit of book text in the game.  It seems that upon inspection it was discovered that the entirety was contained in unencrypted text files that were somewhat easily broken down and arranged. As a result, interested readers can now check it all out on their eReader of choice.  There is even a table of contents to make it simple to find whichever piece of literature might be particularly interesting to you at the moment.

The whole file is just over a megabyte worth of text, amounting to slightly less than 2,000 page turns on my usual reading settings.  Your own may differ, of course.  It has been made available both in EPUB and Mobi, so practically any modern eReader, phone, computer, etc. should be able to display it without trouble.  While it is entirely possible that the legality of this distribution is questionable, given that it is game data that might be picked up by people who don’t own the rights to use the game, real problems seem unlikely.

This is, when it comes right down to it, exactly the sort of added value content that many media distributors would kill for.  Owners of the Kindle w/ Special Offers might recall an ABC offer back in October that allowed users to pick up a free copy of the script to one of their new pilot episodes.  This is essentially the same idea.  While I consider it unlikely that this will set the trend for future use of eReaders as venues for promotional material built along these lines, it’s also hardly the first time that fans have found ways to bring content to the Kindle in unexpected ways.

Should the Kindle Fire take off in the long run, of course, things may be very different.  Allowing a TV network or publishing company to throw up additional content for limited periods of time via an app might just make it worth the effort in a way that is not currently the case.  Time will tell, but either way we can see the importance of Kindles as advertising avenues increasing.

To get a copy for yourself, head over to http://capane.us/2011/11/24/dovahkiin-gutenberg/

A Kindle Conversion: Why The EPUB Argument Stopped Mattering

Amazon made what appeared to be some fairly big opponents in the earliest days of the Kindle.  All they had to do was decide to go with a closed format.  Unlike some companies who might have decided that a strong DRM scheme was plenty of protection, they made sure that Kindle owners were locked in by consciously failing to support the industry standard eBook format.  It struck many people, myself included, as manipulative and more than a little bit condescending.

Thinking back, many of my earliest complaints about the Kindle revolved around the EPUB format.  I was ideologically supportive of the Nook in a very strong way as a result.  They might have wanted to lock in customers via DRM, but at least things like outside purchases and library books would work if the user wanted to make the effort to access them.  MobiPocket format was already too outdated in many situations.

Oddly enough, in principle the objections remain to this day.  The difference is that now customers aren’t expected to buy into an unproven platform with no guarantee that success was ahead.  Keep in mind that the Kindle was not the first E Ink eReader.  Sony was already doing a fairly good job of fizzling out by then and has been taking a back seat in the field ever since as a result.

My own change of opinion regarding the importance of the eBook format conflict stems from purely practical matters.  We have reached a point where there is literally nothing you can’t do with a Kindle that can be done on another device.  Library books are plentiful, no author or publisher is likely to boycott the Kindle platform in favor of the competition, and on the off chance that you find a DRM-free eBook you want on your device you can convert it for free with Calibre (a practical necessity for the eBook enthusiast in case you haven’t adopted already. Google it!).  In a situation where the format itself offers no particular advantage inherent to itself, there is no longer much reason to cling to it.  There is a reason you don’t see much use of HD-DVD anymore, or Betamax before that.

As we move forward into the next generation of formats, HTML5 forms the underlying structure.  Kindle Format 8 looks to allow for as much, or as little, formatting as the person producing a given publication desires as a result.  This will improve Amazon’s ability to present their media equally well on practically any size display, which makes sense given speculation regarding future Kindle Tablet options.  Nobody else seems to have really adopted an equally versatile approach yet, and even if that happens it won’t necessarily change anything.  There is only so much you can do in order to essentially show off text in an attractive manner.

What it all comes down to is that customers will go where they get the best experience.  EPUB might be better than Mobi, but with the Kindle providing the better hardware and Amazon backing their product with strong infrastructure and a great book store that didn’t matter enough.  It’s one more format war down.

Meet the DecalGirl Artists Pt 2

I have to start with sad news our the 6-th post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle – There is no winner at all. Just imagine – you were out of the only one click to get the prize – a free Kindle skin of your choice. Just to remember for our regular readers and new visitors: to be in the game you need to do the following: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Be with us on twitter.




Before getting into a few more bios of DecalGirl artists, I have some big news to announce:  DecalGirl has skins for the Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch available for pre-order now!  Just click here to go to our main Kindle page, and from there you are just a click away from seeing the skins that are available for the newest Kindles.  (Don’t forget:  If you don’t see something you like there, go to the menu and select “shop by design” and choose from any of over 2000 designs for your new Kindle.)

Now, back to the artists….

(Remember, you can click on any image in this post to go to the gallery page for that artist at DecalGirl.com, where you can see all of his or her available works.)

Dan Morris grew up in Carmel, New York.  He began studying art at age 11 under the tutelage of German sculptor Paul Rudin.  Dan continued his study of art in high school and later attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where he studied architecture.

Dan’s art is featured on fabrics, ceramics, greeting cards, calendars, and other products.  He has created designs for rock artists such as Blues Traveler, The Grateful Dead, The Band, and Bob Marley.  Among his work that is available at DecalGirl you will find animals, beach and seashore images, patriotic works, and 60’s inspired images reminiscent of pop art icon Peter Max.  Since this is being posted on Veterans’ Day I have chosen “Air Force Jets” to share here as an example of Dan’s work.

Speaking of 60’s inspired pop art, our next featured artist is the California surf culture inspired Chuck Trunks.  Chuck is originally from Philadelphia, where he studied fine art and art appreciation at the Barnes Foundation.  He later moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, receiving a B.S. in biochemistry and doing graduate work in molecular biology at North Carolina State University.  From there he moved to California where he spent most of his professional career at Amgen.

After 20 years in the biotech industry, Chuck left his job to concentrate on producing art and expanding his portfolio.  Bright colors and busy, movement filled themes are the hallmarks of much of his work.  “Sunset Break” is one of the newest of Chuck’s designs available on DecalGirl skins.

“Lollipop Labs” is the brand name of Shannon Rene “Shaz” Justice.  Shannon’s art career began early in her life when she won three art contests in elementary school.  She became a full time designer and illustrator in 2007 after a 10 year break from the art world.  She was chosen by Sony to help launch their “Sony/ATV Lyrical Inspirations Official Collection.”  For this she created illustrations inspired by five different songs, each by a famous Sony recording artist.

Shannon is working on a Gothic children’s book series, “The Ghoulie Scouts.”  She lists Tim Burton as one of her influences, and I think you can probably see that influence in her work “Christmas Box” featured here.

Lani Imre is one of the newest artists in the DecalGirl collection.  She has exhibited in many cities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.  She has a diploma from the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, British Columbia and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design in Halifax.  In addition she has studied at Concordia University in Montreal and completed a semester of independent study in Berkeley, California.

Lani’s work focuses on large scale mixed media paintings, depicting a variety of female characters.  “Two Betties” is a great example of Lani’s art.

Until next week….

Meet the DecalGirl Artists

This is the 5-th post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. According to our tradition let’s start this post with the winner name. Our congratulation to @Sweepgurl. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter.

Just to remember for our regular readers and new visitors: to be in the game you need to do the following: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Be with us on twitter.




Over the past few weeks I have shared with you some of the “nuts and bolts” of the DecalGirl operation:  The origin and history of the company, how to navigate the website, and how to find resources to help you install DecalGirl skins.  I also showed you some of our seasonal art for Halloween.  For the next two or three weeks I would like to introduce you to some of the artists who produce the magnificent works that we put on DecalGirl skins.  We couldn’t do it without them!
(Click on any of the images mentioned in the post to visit that artist’s page at DecalGirl.com and see all of his or her available designs.)

Al McWhite has been licensing designs to DecalGirl since 2009.  The ocean has always been one of his big sources of inspiration.  “I had no plans of being an artist,” he says.   “I thought I was going to be an ocean exploring marine biologist.”  It wasn’t until his high school art teacher recognized and helped him develop his talent that he realized that his career path lay in the arts.  After high school he received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah Georgia, where he double majored in graphic design and illustration.

Al has since combined his passion for the ocean with his artistic abilities.  You will see that beach, surf, and aquatic elements are major themes in most of his work.  “Sunset Flamingo,” shown here is one of over 40 designs by Al offered on DecalGirl skins.

Jackie Friesth is a self-taught watercolor artist living in Colorado.  She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  When she was in high school she took as many art classes as she could.  She helped paint murals on the school walls, and even painted one on her bedroom wall.  Living in Colorado provides her with a great deal of inspiration for her paintings, which typically feature natural subjects and landscapes.  “Grandmother’s Rose” is one of 14 of Jackie’s designs currently available at DecalGirl.

Julie Borden is a DecalGirl “local” of sorts, as she operates her gallery out of nearby Rehoboth Beach, also known as “The Nation’s Summer Capital” thanks to all of the visitors from Washington D.C. who arrive every summer.  Julie earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology in 1987.  To date she has produced over 700 commissioned works of art.

Julie’s art spans a wide variety of styles and subject matter.  Music is a popular theme with her, and “Music Madness” shown here is a great example of her work.  There are currently 30 of her designs at DecalGirl.com.

Vlad Gerasimov lives in Irkutsk, Russia.  He plays piano and guitar and dreamed of being a rock star.  In 1998 he started to design user interfaces for websites and software applications, and when he had some free time he created desktop wallpapers.  Over time his hobby has grown into a full-fledged business, and today he works from home full time creating wallpapers for computers and mobile devices.

Vlad creates whimsical, brightly colored art with a variety of themes.  “Cheshire Kitten” is just one of over 40 designs from Vlad Studio that you will find at DecalGirl.

That’s a glimpse of a few of our artists.  We have designs from over 80 artists from all over the world, so unfortunately we won’t be able to showcase all of them here, but you can visit their galleries and read their bios at DecalGirl.com.  We’ll look at four more of them in this space next week.

Kindle Trade-In Available Now For Those Hoping To Upgrade

As Kindle updates have happened over the years, one of the biggest customer complaints has been that Amazon has completely ignored the existing customers who might want to upgrade to the newest device possible.  This was especially an issue moving from the first generation of the Kindle to the second generation, since it was such an immense improvement and change in aesthetic.  Up until recently, however, the only recourse for early adopters and other existing customers was to either be happy with what you already have or pay full price for the next generation.  At this time, though, if you are a Kindle owner who would like to trade in their existing eReader for credit toward a new one, there is finally an option!

It seems that pretty much anything you have on hand is eligible.  Even first generation Kindles will get you up to $12 depending on condition.  That might not be much compared to the initial purchase price, but using a 4 year old eReader to get 15% off a new Kindle 4 isn’t a bad deal at all, considering all the improvements that have taken place.  Surprisingly, even non-Kindles are eligible.  At this time, a non-touchscreen Kobo or Sony Reader Pocket will get you around $20.  You’ll find any number of competing products to be worth some money if you are interested in switching to the Kindle, or just want some Amazon credit in general (Nook excluded at the moment).

As one cautionary note, be aware that when trading in your eReader you are unlikely to get the full “up to $__” value for your device as this is for a completely unworn product with its original packaging intact.  I doubt many people have hung on to their old boxes on the off chance they might come in handy someday.  The difference between the “Like New” price listed and a “Good” product is generally between $1 and $15, proportional to the value of the device.

I can see this being a valuable move for Amazon in a couple different ways.  Obviously it spurs adoption of new devices.  The Kindle Fire is doing great, of course, but more is always better.  Also, the Kindle Touch is probably where Amazon wants focus at this time as far as eReaders go, so it makes sense to provide an easy way to upgrade.  No matter what device is chosen, there is a good chance that it will be something that Amazon can present ads on, increasing the revenue stream along those lines going forward.  There is also a high probability that, since the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are the newer, shiner eReaders at the moment, this will mean fewer devices with unlimited 3G access floating around.  While they have not gotten rid of that feature for new Kindle Keyboard purchases, the restriction on the new device makes it clear that there is an interest in cutting down those ongoing expenses.

Regardless of the motivation for offering the deals, though, this should help some people who want to get their hands on a new Kindle to do so.  It might not be a lot of the price being offset in some cases, but everything makes a difference in the end.

Here is the link to the Trade-in department of Amazon where you can choose any stuff for trade-in transactions. In the “Find the Items You’d Like to Trade In” select “Electronics” category from the drop-down menu and type Kindle in “Search by title or keyword(s)” box. After clicking the “Go” button you will see the options for trade-in transactions.

 

 

What To Consider About A Kindle For College

It’s that time of year again and students new and old are heading back to college for the fall.  Now, more than ever, having an eReader just makes sense for anybody serious about their education.  That said, with so many options on the market it can be hard to choose.  Kindle or Nook?  eReader or Tablet?  Skip it all and just get a laptop, since there are eReading apps anyway?  When trying to decide, there are a few factors that are really important.

First, determine what your eBook needs will be.  Students new to college can expect significant introductory coursework.  This often means older, more widely read works of literature and basic textbooks.  Generally this means extended reading of the literature and textbooks only pulled out to work through assignments.  For that combination, I recommend an eReader like the Kindle or Nook combined with a PC app for textbook reading (They’re only going to be opened for a few minutes at a time anyway).  As always, check the list of required texts to make sure this is feasible before buying.  This combination has the added advantage of paying for itself in savings very quickly since a Kindle will only cost you $114 and many commonly used books can be found for free.

In terms of more advanced students, the individual needs will determine whether use of an eReader is feasible.  Many technical texts require both extended study and full color diagrams to make sense.  The current monochrome limitations of the Kindle would make it less than useful for this.  If the program in question requires extensive illustrated textbook reference, you probably don’t need one.  If you will be spending much time using academic text references like JSTOR, or focusing on purely text-based studies, the Kindle makes perfect sense.

Assuming you have an idea what kind of product you need, the next step is choosing the particular model.  Availability is not really a concern with the Amazon Kindle always including free shipping and the Barnes & Noble Nook available in all of their local stores and many of the college book stores they service.  For the most part, this is a matter of personal preference.  Both devices accomplish everything you would expect from a reading device and neither has a clear advantage over the other.  For a hands-on comparison, many Best Buy stores will have both devices side by side.

I do not recommend using nothing but a laptop PC if the goal is to focus on eBooks.  Extended reading on LCD screens can be uncomfortable at best, and the potential for distraction is far higher than on an eReader.

Similarly, there are no circumstances under which I would consider an iPad a valid substitute for either a laptop or an eReader.  In terms of reading, they fall short due to the short battery life and a back-lit display that can be hard on the eyes during long study sessions.  In classes, the potential for distraction is far higher than on something like a Kindle, which has led to many instructors being uncomfortable even having the devices present in the classroom.  They also certainly do not manage to work as well as a laptop for composition or presentation preparation.  Students will be forced to perform necessary tasks elsewhere.

Whatever the needs, make sure to keep in mind both the Kindle eText rental service and public domain titles available through the Kindle Store (or just Project Gutenberg) for free.  Making use of eBooks will save you money, if you are careful, even accounting for the costs of the reading device.

Stallman vs Amazon Kindle: Are eBooks Bad?

The idea that print books and the Kindle were in opposition has been around pretty much as long as there’s been a Kindle.  In fact, if you go back far enough, you can find people talking about the impending end of the written word pretty much since there was the option to view words on a screen.  The Kindle just made it easy and enjoyable enough for people in general to take the “threat” seriously.  The transition hasn’t been perfect, nor has it always been smooth.  There are always problems with innovations.  For the most part, however, it is clear to everybody that eBooks are thriving.

That is, at least, the impression I was under.  A recent article by Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Movement, the GNU Project, and general digital freedoms activist, seems to insist not only that this turning point has yet to come, but that we should resist it on principal.  His recent article, titled “The Danger of E-books” highlight the shortcomings of digital reading media by comparing point for point across a list of freedoms that can be associated with print books.  Emphasis is placed on the value of anonymous purchasing, lack of required proprietary technology or software, resale capabilities, and the differences between ownership and licensing.  He makes what could be considered some good points, but that depends on your point of view and priorities.

From what I know of Stallman, anonymity is a major issue for the guy.  I can understand the urge for that kind of complete privacy, but at the same time it is increasingly proving more of a daily hassle than it is worth.  I’m not claiming that as a good thing, just a fact of life.  His argument that a book can be purchased anonymously, where a Kindle or Kindle eBook cannot, really only applies if you are the sort of person who makes no purchases online in the first place, who doesn’t use a credit card, and who avoids all non-cash transactions.  This isn’t an eBook problem, it’s a modern commerce problem.

A similar problem applies to his objections to restricted reselling.  Pulling an example from another industry, look at the problems that reselling have caused video game production companies.  Not only are many consumers more likely to purchase used copies than new ones, but these used copies are a continual drain on their original creators who must maintain any server-side components in spite of the fact that purchasers after the first bring no money to the originating company.  A similar problem would arise for a company like Amazon if they were to offer resale Kindle books.  Customers come to the platform expecting to have their books available to them on all their devices when they want them.  Should Amazon be providing this service to people who work around the system and grab a “used” license that provides no profit to either author or distributor?  I suppose a rights-transfer fee might be possible, but that would have its own objectors, especially on already inexpensive eBooks.

Maybe it is a bit cynical but I think that if you leave people free to do what they please, there’s a good chance that they will.  Is the current DRM scheme ridiculously restrictive?  Yes.  No Question.  Is the answer to completely do away with DRM and move to a scheme such as the one Stallman suggests, where the only money authors can expect is from pleased readers wanting to anonymously donate to them?  I sincerely hope not.  It’s a pleasant vision that assumes the best of everybody, but in reality it would almost certainly mean the downfall of the Kindle platform and a move away from digital publishing by pretty much everybody wanting to make a career of writing.

Some Thoughts on Free E-books

KindleHow often do you read free e-books on your Kindle? Always? Most of the time? Sometimes? Rarely? Does the fact that the book is free, make your reading process more enjoyable? Yes? No? Maybe?

As I’m looking for different sources for free e-books libraries, I come to conclusion that every single source for free e-books has some disadvantages. Aside from Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.net (most of its books originate from Gutenberg), all of the free e-book libraries are highly commercialized. It really depends, which way a website owner decides to go – either infest a book catalogue’s pages with ads; create membership fees to highly disadvantage free membership’s choices; or even insert advertisement pages in the “free” e-books.

Of course, it’s understandable. There is absolutely no profit for these websites’ owners to invest their time in producing high quality free e-books. So, the free e-books theme is just a way for many to bring users to the website. And advertisements are their actual products. I see so many fake free e-book sites without real content – it’s starting to get on my nerves. It appears that all the domain names with “free e-books” are taken for these exact purposes. To find one site, be it with ads, but containing actual e-books, I go through ten fake ones.

I mean, really, ginormous kudos to Gutenberg for doing what they are doing. And if you are feeling generous, I do encourage you to make a donation to Gutenberg Project to keep them alive. It is tax-deductable.

Another issue with free e-books is that, of course, they are poorly edited. Even Amazon freebies’ content suffers in the quality: as some people noticed that most of Amazon Free Kindle books have editing errors (such as missing passages). Also, my beloved Gutenberg’s e-books are not all perfectly formatted.

Do you notice when a book is poorly edited? Does it bother you much?

Free E-books on Malay Archipelago in Sejarah Melayu Library

This source for free e-books, articles and academic papers will probably be appreciated by very particular type of readers. Sejarah Melayu Library’s resources focus on Malay Archipelago (also called Indonesian Archipelago) and surrounding areas. All e-books, articles and academic papers are available for your Kindle for free and in .PDF format.

WallaceBasically the library has seven sections:
General section contains miscellaneous materials on Malay Archipelago that (I am guessing) do not really fit into other categories.
Histories and Other References focuses on history and geography.
Travelogue is self-explanatory: travelers’ notes about Malay Archipelago.
Language section contains dictionaries & free grammar e-books.
Fiction consists of novels, fables, poetry and other literary materials that have connections to Malay Archipelago.
Papers and Articles section has journal articles and academic papers available for downloading.
News and Dispatches has historical newspapers, gazettes, chronicles, and reports.

The layout and navigation for Sejarah Melayu Library is straightforward. Notice that you need to press the tiny plus signs in the menu, instead of the titles. There is no registration required to use these materials. All documents I checked out were in good quality PDF.

I think, this is a precious source for the scholars doing a research on Malay Archipelago; intrigued travelers planning to visit the area; and those hungry for information polymaths.

In addition to Sejarah Melayu Library’s resources, Amazon offers somewhat outdated, but free Kindle Books on this topic:
The Malay Archipelago, the Land of the Orang-utan and the Bird of Paradise; a Narrative of Travel, With Studies of Man and Nature Volume I by Alfred Russel Wallace (Volume II is also available for free); Through the Malay Archipelago by Emily Richings; and Blown to Bits The Lonely Man of Rakata, the Malay Archipelago by R. M. (Robert Michael) Ballantyne.

Happy researching!

Free E-books for Newbies (Part II)

If you’ve been in relationship with your Kindle for a while now, then there is nothing new for you in this post. If you are new to the whole e-books searching process, then I will be proud to present you the best source for free e-books available on the internet.

Basically, the biggest chunk of free Kindle e-books is resting on the backs of two elephants: the aforementioned Amazon’s free e-book collection and Gutenberg project.

Don QuijoteGutenberg is the most gorgeous e-book project I have seen so far. It is almost twice as large as Amazon Classics. There is no registration needed for downloading e-books. There are no flashing and eye-irritating advertisements (compared to other free e-book libraries). Gutenberg e-books are available in Kindle-friendly .MOBI format; and usually, there is an option, whether you want to download a book with or without images.

Aside from the enormous collection of classics, Gutenberg has an impressive collection of books in foreign languages – Spanish, Greek, Latin, Russian, German, French, Japanese etc. Maybe I will finally fulfill my dream to read Don Quijote in the original.

It has the majority of well-known old texts, so if you are a History student – you will always be able to find some works of such authors like Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch etc.

The universal problem with the quality of free e-books does not escape Gutenberg. Most books are converted in MOBI format automatically, so there is no guarantee that the e-book will look perfectly on your Kindle.

Kindle 3G: The Long Saga How I Bought Kindle 3G and Some First Impressions

Last weekend I spent in Best Buy, waiting for the world’s slowest customer associate to bring me Kindle Wi-Fi.  During the [insert a large number here] minutes of me standing near the Kindle display, and the associate going back and forth: writing down, re-writing and double checking the code in order to check if they have any Kindle Wi-Fi’s in stock, I pondered about the world’s slowest turtles and the meaning of life.  After the eternity, I learned that they do not have any Kindle Wi-Fi’s left in stock.  A logical person would leave the store and perhaps, order the damn thing online.  An irritated person, however, grabs the available box with Kindle 3G with one hand, and holding a sweaty (by this time) Best Buy’s get 10% off coupon (the original reason, why I ended up in Best Buy) with another hand and heads over to the cashier.  Well, the coupon does not apply to Kindle, which says so (the cashier points into the tiny card) in very fine print.  Perhaps, a logical person gets pissed and walks away.  But not me, I like sticking to my plans and that is how I ended up getting Kindle 3G.

So here are my first impressions.

Impression #1: (as I unwrapped my purchase immediately in the car) OMG, it fits in my purse!!!

Impression #2: (as I got extremely hungry, while waiting for the world’s slowest customer associate, I went straight to the restaurant.  I started playing with my new Kindle and accidentally pressed the text to speech button) OMG, how do I turn off this Robocop’s voice reading Jane Austen?

And now, to the serious business.

Pages.  The page-turning buttons are extremely comfortably located.  Flip.  Flip.  Flip.  Ah, it feels nice.

Keyboard.  The arrow keys are hit and miss.  Sometimes, I click and nothing happens.  Sometimes, I do not click and the unwanted things occur.

Also, there is plenty of unused space between the keyboard and the screen: why not have a full keyboard (i.e.  include the number keys)?

Normal headphone jack instead of those annoying custom ones – awesome!

Text to speech feature: nice to have it, but I don’t think I will be using it at all.

Integrated dictionary: priceless!

Some Free E-books from Forgottenbooks.org

Forgotten Books was recommended to me by a reader, Glynn, who, I’m guessing, is affiliated with this company.   Forgotten Books is an independent publishing company focused on reviving old print.

To tell the truth, I do not really like what Forgotten Books is doing with their free e-books feature.  And the reason being – their free e-books are in low quality .PDF format.  To attain a copy of a high-quality .PDF, a person has to pay a membership fee.  I have hard time understanding, why Forgotten Books are trying to charge for better quality .PDFs for the books that are free from copyright and generally available online for no cost.

Fol Tales From the RussianAlthough, they do have this e-book of the day for free feature – if you sign up for their subscription, you can download their book of the day in good quality .PDF for your Kindle for free.  Today’s book of the day is actually the reason, why I changed my mind and decided to write about this source.  Today’s book of the day is Folk Tales From the Russian by Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano de Blumenthal (first published in 1903).  The Tsarevna Frog, Father Frost, Baba Yaga and other awesome fellows!  This book is also available on Google Books (in .EPub and .PDF) and on Surlalunefairytales (online only) for free.  Also, it is available on Amazon for $1.75. Russian Folklore tales are wickedly good.   I sincerely encourage you looking into them.

So, I signed up for the subscription and downloaded Folk Tales From the Russian from Forgotten Books.  I have to say that putting a line through the e-book is very uncool of you, Forgotten Books.  Google Books’ version of this book is way better quality.

Perhaps, Forgotten Books’ other books of the day will be as cool as today’s.  And I hope they will improve their not-so-reasonable-for-now free e-book offers.

Free Kindle Books for Newbies

Alice
What is the first thing a new Kindle owner does? Right! The dance of joy. Okay, but the next thing?

Dorian GrayAs for me, it was the diving into the ocean of Amazon’s free classics I always wanted to read, but did not have the patience to. Now – guess what, when I’m stuck on an airplane, frankly, I have no escape. Also, getting free classics from Amazon, with their 1-Click feature, is the most convenient way for me to upload the books on Kindle.

Great Expectations – one day I’ll read it, maybe, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I haven’t read it yet. Click.
Well, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is my sacred text I always have on my bedside. Click.
The Picture of Dorian Gray – to have it in my pocket always available for re-reading.  Upload.
The Sayings Of Confucius – to impress one professor I know.  Click.
The Prince – for the same purposes as the book mentioned above.  Click.
Prince

However, remember that with free cheese there is always a catch. According to Amazon’s reviewers, some of these books are sloppily edited (missing certain passages and such), which completely ruins the experience if you are trying to savor one of your most favorite books. On the other hand, if you want to get familiar with some works for the general education purposes and you are not planning on conducting an in-depth analysis of this or that character, then perhaps the imperfect, but free editions will suffice for you.

Also, Amazon has a page with limited time offers for certain e-books. Some e-books are listed for a nominal price, some are cheaper than usually, and some are free.

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.

Some Free E-books on Free-ebooks.net

I am slightly disappointed with www.free-ebooks.net for trying to rip off fellows Kindle-ers, but it might be useful for someone, so I will hide my judging stare away.

111 Egg RecipesI have many problems with this site.  The first one is the domain name – “free ebooks” is kind of a way overboard name for a site with such limited availability of the actual free e-books.

Another issue with this site is that .MOBI format is available only for an upgraded membership.  They have e-books in .PDF format for no charge, but here is the catch – you can download only 5 books per month for free.

One more minor annoyance: they require users to register for downloading e-books.

Also, the site’s content is poorly edited – some book titles have typos, sometimes authors’ names are missing and so on.

So, yes, the site is limiting from all ends.  However, the selection and variety of the books is quite large.  The library is not restricted by the usual classics, to the availability of which we are so used to.  I enjoyed the quantity of “100 Recipes of Something-Something” type of cook books: 111 Egg Recipes, 300 Chicken Recipes, 300 Recipes for the Grill and so on.  I also liked the selection in the Tutorials section.  There are books like: Build Your Own Home Theatre, An Introduction to Pipe Band Drumming, or even How to Create a Garden Pond.

Hence, if you are looking for a very specific book, this is a good back-up source.

Free E-books from BookRix

Here is another emerging resource with free books – bookrix.com. This is not the largest e-book library in the world; it has a little bit less than 13,000 books available for your pleasure. The site has a good and clean design and it is not overwhelmed by ads.

The downside of this library is that it is less Kindle-friendly as we are used to. BookRix offers books in EPub format and that means conversion for the Kindle crowd. Hello, Calibre.

Edgar PoeThere is an optional registration for the book lovers, which is actually a good thing – BookRix has a pretty solid roster of active users. I like when e-book libraries have user involvement, because that usually means there are book reviews. And book reviews help me in deciding which new and unusual book to pick.Joseph Conrad

So if you were thinking to read good old Edgar Poe’s The Raven for free, then welcome to BookrRix ($0.99 on Amazon). Also, BookRix has Joseph Conrad’s Mirror of the Sea available for free ($0.95 on Amazon).

BookRix is an emerging-author-friendly site. So, if you are hiding your first book creation under the pillow, not sure if the world is ready to buy it, but kind of, hesitantly, but surely, want the world to read it for free, then Bookrix has a good audience for you. Try it out! Maybe your baby will get harrypotter-popular!

And, of course, if you are not a snobby classics-only avid reader, then perhaps you will discover a young author you will fall in love (of literary admiration, that is).
Enjoy.

Free Kindle Books from Bookyards

HemingwayPerhaps, you will find not so widely known free e-book library www.bookyards.com a valuable source in your search. They proclaim themselves as a “library to the world”, but against the grand proclamation, it has a modest collection of approximately 17, 000 downloadable e-books. It does not require any forms of registration for downloading e-books. SteinbeckAnd all the e-books are available in supported by Kindle .PDF format.

You can enjoy Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck for free (compare to Amazon‘s $12.99); or Hemingway’s The Sun Always Rises ($11.99 on Amazon); F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby ($10.99 on Amazon). However, I have to admit, Bookyards’ fiction section is quite limited.

This free e-book library is mostly education oriented. So, a student, or a researcher, or just a curious erudite might find this resource a very useful one. If you were looking for an electronic version of C. Bresciani Turroni’s Economic Policy For The Thinking Man, or perhaps the Marquis de Nadaillac’s Manners And Monuments Of Prehistoric Peoples, or Charles Marquis Smith’s Electric and Magnetic Measurements (all of which are unavailable in Kindle edition on Amazon) – then Bookyards will become your favorite source for e-books.

The organization of the site is pretty easy to navigate; all the available e-books are a couple clicks away from downloading. Also, Bookyards displays the list of the most popular downloaded e-books on the front page. To my giggly astonishment, one of the most downloaded books is not Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (kudos to Project Gutenberg’s Top 100), but it is Sharipov’s Classical Electrodynamics! See? What an extremely different contingent of e-book users frequents Bookyards.

I hope you will find this library useful in your free e-book search.

Kindle Skins

Kindle SkinCuteness overload!

I have been using this adorable giraffe (originally created by Vlad Gerasimov) as my desktop wallpaper for a couple years now. Each time I need to make a presentation, thus exposing my desktop to the strangers’ eyes – I always get a few giggles and compliments towards my choice of desktop image. I was stoked to see this artwork reprinted as as Kindle Skin by DecalGirl.

I can only imagine the amount of compliments one would get for a similar Kindle Skin! Winter time is time to dress up your Kindle. Many more DecalGirl Kindle Skins available for $19.99 – all created by very talented artists.

Kindle SkinIf you do not find anything by DecalGirl that is up to your liking, there are also Kindle Skins available by GelaSkins. GelaSkins’ selection of designs is quite nifty too – the owl charmed my heart away.

I did not notice any major differences in the quality and customers’ reviews between these brands. Except that DecalGirl states on their website that if a customer damages the Kindle Skin, while installing it on their Kindle, then they promise to replace it for free. The customer would only cover the shipping costs. I’m not sure how topical is the issue of damaging Kindle Skins during the installation process, but I have to agree, this is pretty nice of DecalGirl to offer. As for the price, it is only five cents difference – GelaSkins are $19.95.

And in case if you are stern like a samurai – you like the idea of dressing up your Kindle, but cute giraffes and owls with eyes full of tenderness and love-stricken insomnia seem a bit overwhelming, here is a Kindle Skin just for you – plain and black. It is $14.99, by Solid State.

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.

‘Kindelized’ Christmas

Kindle AdvertisementWith Christmas coming up, I noticed the news about Kindle is focused on predicting the number of Kindle sales during pre-Christmas shopping time. I also see some Christmas anticipation from the Kindle community – some folks cannot wait until the X day to give Kindle as a gift to someone special, others hope to find Kindle in their Christmas stocking, and a couple of people indulge in bragging about getting Kindle as an early Christmas present (most likely they were also the givers).

Does the fact that Kindle is the best selling item on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), magnify the urge to buy Kindle even more? Would it be the “herd-instinct” (kudos to Nietzsche for coining the term), i.e. everybody has Kindle, therefore I want one; or it would be due to the belief – if so many people purchase Kindle then it must be good? Well, as for me – clearly, it makes me wonder. Who would we attribute the predicted numbers for Kindle sales – to the agile marketing strategy, or to Kindle’s superiority among the e-book readers? Mind you, the 8 million of future Kindle sales is a mere prognosis for now. Personally, I cannot wait to see if this prognosis will be supported by the facts after Christmas. In any case, I am applauding to Amazon marketing team: the Kindle advertisement’s slogan is solid, strong, and concise.

Cyber Monday Deals from Barnes & Nobles and Amazon: No Kindle or Nook Color Deals Though

Barnes & Nobles is running couple of great offers today.

First offer is: free shipping on any purchase with no minimum amount. Just enter coupon code B3X4N4N at check out.

Below are some details of the offer:
Get FREE SHIPPING (Standard Delivery).
1. Place eligible items in your cart.
2. Proceed to Checkout; select “Standard Delivery”
3. Enter the coupon code
4. Complete your Checkout.

There is another cool offer running today at BN.COM: Save 25% off one item – which gives you 25% off the highest priced item in your cart. Enter coupon code B4D7H9A at checkout. The 25% discount will be applied to the highest-priced item in your cart.

Unfortunately both of these coupons have bunch of exceptions and NOOK is one of them.

For Cyber Monday deals at Amazon check out Amazon Lightning Deals page.

If you’re looking for a great gift for someone who loves to read check out Kindle WiFi, Kindle WiFi+3G or Nook. All of them are great e-readers and will make a great gift to anyone.

You can also check active Amazon Cyber Monday deals below. There are some exciting deals going on in Electronics, Sports, Health and Home categories.

Also make sure to check out deals on bowlex sport equipment and Microsoft Kinect is one of the hits on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Bowlex is running some very nice discounts right now and Microsoft Kinect is one of the hottest gifts of this shopping season.