Good Resources for Free and Discounted Kindle Books

If you’re vigilant about tracking the daily Kindle news, you will find a bunch of good books for free or discounted prices.  They don’t stay discounted for very long, so you have to act fast.

Bookmark’s reader forums.  Overall, these are good resources for anything Kindle related.  Kindle users are the best judges of what works best and what doesn’t.  But, for discounted and free books, check out the forum titled: Discounted / Price Dropped Kindle eBooks.  Put that title in the search box since there’s no way to directly link to the forum itself.  There’s also a Free Kindle book forum that is worth checking as well.  Even if you don’t find a book you like, keep checking.  This forum is updated often.

Don’t forget to check the Top 100 Free Kindle bestsellers list.  A lot of these books are cheesy romance novels or self help books.  Occasionally though, you’ll find a bestseller, or other good book to try out.  About half of the books on my Kindle came from this list.  I was able to discover new favorite authors by finding their books here.  The list also includes Kindle games and active content.

Don’t forget the new Kindle Daily Deals going on.  They include major discounts on bestselling books.  There are some bestsellers that I can’t afford the full price for.  Some are as much as $15!  So, I’ve been keeping track of the Daily Deals to see if they show up there.  One of the most notable ones to show up on the Daily Deals was The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly.

Through the forums, I found a great website that provides alerts when prices are dropped on a book.  It is called   The website lets you track Kindle price drops, search for your favorite books, view the free Kindle book list, and see what books have been recently converted to Kindle.  The recently converted book option is quite handy.  There are a bunch of other discounted Kindle book websites.  You’ll find them recommended by readers on the forums, and pretty much anywhere there are discussions regarding the e-reader and e-books.

Aside from all of the resources here, you can check out the Amazon Kindle Twitter and Facebook page for more news and discount sale information.  The Facebook page has been an excellent resource for both authors and readers alike.








Kindle Editions w/ Multimedia: A Failed Experiment?

While eBook sales have been expanding across the board and the Kindle is flourishing with ever-increasing sales each year, very little has been heard about the Kindle Edition eBook / A/V hybrid that was once touted as a potential future for the eBook.  The explanations for this failure to thrive is fairly simple are understand, but do they mean that the format is dead?

Probably the main failing, in my eyes, was the lack of logical transition for the customer.  Books are familiar territory for most people.  Audio and video are separate concerns.  The only place that the average eBook customer is likely to encounter a combination of the two is while browsing the internet.  When the best comparison that a reader can draw is to something they already encounter for free on a daily basis, it would take some fairly strong marketing to increase the perceived value.

It didn’t help anything that the nature of the integration made it impossible to access on the Kindle eReader itself.  The whole platform, while offering a reading experience to anybody with a screen and internet access, is pretty much built around the eReader.  Having content that cannot be accessed through this doesn’t do as much good as one would prefer.

On top of that, you have no Android app access, meaning that the only customers who even have the option of reading their purchases away from the PC are Apple iOS users.  Soon even they won’t be a valid audience.  Given recent issues with the Apple App Store guideline enforcement, Amazon is clearly prodding iOS users in the direction of the new Kindle Cloud Reader which does not yet (and seems unlikely in the near future to) support A/V integration.

Price must also be considered a factor.  While it is true that the integration of extra-textual layers brings some added value to a book, it seems difficult to justify the additional cost for many of the available texts.  The experience is often similar to the special features on a DVD.  It might be worth a small about more than simply the main experience, but not enough to justify a noticeable jump in price.  Of course, without that price you have added investment beyond the core book that is not being compensated for.  A bit of a dilemma.

Does this mean the end of the project?  While it is clear that priorities have to be elsewhere right this minute, I can see this being something Amazon comes back to in the future.  The upcoming Kindle Tablet will have the hardware necessary to allow this sort of integration again and will hopefully be accessible to far more users, in terms of price, than the iPad was at launch.  Assuming that Amazon does not intend to break the Kindle completely away from the app marketplace in favor of browser-based applications, this would also finally result in a working Kindle for Android A/V presence which would further increase the value of the product line.  For now, not really a major factor in the Kindle‘s success.

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.

Don’t Miss the Kindle Daily Deal

Amazon revealed a new and really cool feature today: The Kindle Daily Deal.  They will put up bestselling Kindle books for a really big discount.

It started August 25 with Water for Elephants.  Water for Elephants is by bestselling author Sara Gruen, and is told from the perspective of a former circus worker.  I read it a couple of years ago, and thought it was great, but heartbreaking.  It was made into a movie that hit theaters earlier this summer.

It is normally around $6, but with the discount it is over half off.

This is a really good strategy, especially with the high prices on the bestsellers.

So, keep a close eye out everyday.  Who knows, they may have a book you’ve been dying to read.  Follow the deals on Facebook, Twitter, and on the website:

Kobo To Open HTML5 eReading App Similar To Kindle Cloud Reader

Fascinated as we are by the platform here, Kindle users are far from the only group to be inconvenienced by Apple’s in-app purchasing guideline enforcement.  Apple built the popularity of their iPads on the availability and functionality of apps being developed by other parties, only to change their minds once an ownership base was established.  Certainly totally within their rights to do, but more than a little unpleasant for both the app developers and users who are accustomed to better treatment.  Amazon has retaliated by releasing the Kindle Cloud Reader, which completely bypasses the iPad’s App Store, and they aren’t the only ones looking at the options.

Kobo, the leading international Kindle competition, has announced plans to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with an HTML5 Reading app of their own.  When it is complete, users should be able to read their Kobo purchases on any device with a web browser, effectively bypassing Apple’s restrictions.  You should even be able to save the app to your iOS device Home page for seamless integration.  As with the Kindle Cloud Reader, users will be able to sync their collections for offline browsing, which addresses the largest possible shortcoming of a browser-based solution to the problem.

The only major problem with apps like these is the loss of Apple App Store exposure.  To effectively bypass Apple’s fees it is important to already have a substantial user base, since random discovery is far less likely.  Existing Kobo customers will have little problem, and will likely welcome the chance to make use of the store again without the price increases that would have been necessary to profitably continue operation within Apple’s guidelines.  New users will almost certainly be harder to come by.  We can expect to see continued support for the Kobo iOS app as a result, for exposure’s sake if nothing else.

This is not the only obstacle that Kobo has had to face recently.  With the end of Borders, their US distribution partner, exposure will be harder to come by in the current largest eBook market.  Although they remained separate companies, Borders was directly linked to the Kobo eReader in the minds of consumers for having been the first ones to bring to to the US.  Regaining that kind of presence will be a slow process.

Outside the US, the Kobo Store is reported to have perhaps the best selection of eBooks currently available.  Due to ongoing licensing right disputes, the Kindle Store is not yet always able to consistently provide the same level of service that Kobo has managed to over such a large number of markets.  The release of this HTML5 app should do them a great deal of good in expanding their lead, given the number of Tablet PCs hitting the market recently.  This may allow readers to enjoy the service even in countries where localized selections are not currently available and shipping the Kobo eReader itself is problematic.

We can expect the official release of the new Kobo app later this year.

Sony Dumps Old Readers For Rumored New Generation

Fans of the Sony Reader line, the earliest and at one time best eReaders brought to market in the US, may be somewhat disappointed to head that the current generation of Readers has been cut in its entirety.  While they have not been replaced at the Sony online store, all are listed as out of stock and there is a clearance sale going on for the few remaining accessories they have around. Admittedly this most recent Sony eReaders have failed to keep up with more functional competition like the Kindle and Nook, but an abrupt withdrawal from the market like this was unexpected.

The last few Sony eReaders have been comparatively basic models for the asking price.  The PRS-350, otherwise known as the Reader Pocket Edition, boasted a smaller screen (just 5″), shorter battery life, no wireless functionality, and a price $65 higher than the current least expensive Kindle model.  The more impressive Reader, the Daily Edition, actually managed to improve on the Kindle in a few small ways, but still suffered from shorter battery life and a price nearly three times as much as the basic Kindle.  Tie this together with an unimpressive associated store and little in the way of media promotion for the eBooks themselves and it isn’t hard to see why popularity has seemed to taper off.  Still, in large part due to the ability of the Sony Reader line to participate in library eBook lending thanks to its EPUB support, there have been occasional resurgences in interest in these as valid Kindle competition.

What we can look forward to now, hopefully, is a more current and modestly priced Sony Reader.  While there has not been any official word on the future of the product lines, unofficial comments from Sony executives have indicated that a new set of eReaders is in the works, with equivalents intended for the old PRS-350 and PRS-650 models.  Aside from the fact that they will finally have 802.11n WiFi capability and will continue to have touchscreen interfaces, nothing is known.  There is a good chance that we will at least hear announcements by the end of this year.

It would be great to see a Sony Reader able to directly compete with Amazon’s Kindle after all these years.  Their older models went a long way toward setting expectations for customers new to the field.  Sony clearly has at least a pretty good idea how to make a really useful eReading product, so anything that can come in under $150 without sacrificing functionality would gain them some traction.  The same would be true of a higher priced option with color E INK.  If they can come up with an improved store, or make a deal with an alternate eBook vendor, so much the better.

As tight-lipped as the company has been about their plans, we have only speculation, “leaks”, and an FCC filing to go off of for the moment.  With luck, they won’t wait too long to get something back in the stores.

If you are a Sony fan, you can still find the PRS-350 refurbished in stock at the Sony online store for just $152.99 as of the writing of this article.

MS Reader Just Couldn’t Compete With Amazon’s Kindle Anymore

When it comes to deciding who had the biggest impact in the earliest days of eReading, perhaps the only real answer is Microsoft.  Long before the Kindle, or even the first Sony Reader, you could pick up many of your favorite titles and read them on whatever computer or PDA you happened to have handy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it started something big.

Now, after over a decade of usefulness, both the MS Reader application and its associated file format (.lit) are being retired.  According to a notice posted without fanfare on the Microsoft support page, the last day that .lit eBooks will be available anywhere will be November 8, 2011.  The program itself will be usable through August 30, 2012, after which the whole project will be permanently retired.  While it has been a fairly long time since Microsoft was anything resembling a big name in eReading, it’s still almost shocking to see them go.

Yes, you could get electronic books before the year 2000.  I recall several public domain titles floating around my computers as far back as the early 90’s.  The .lit format broke people away from the generic document format or the restrictive PDF and provided a way to just read books.  Reflowable type, bookmarking, text searches, dictionary integration, and more made up a selection of features that improved the whole experience and went on to become the basis for everything that came after.

After the Kindle came around, the game changed significantly.  Microsoft didn’t ever really get the kind of widespread adoption that they needed to compete with such a huge, centralized platform, nor did they offer anything in the way of dedicated reading devices.  While the latter is certainly not essential for general reading, it makes a big difference for the most avid readers.  Combine that with the vastly superior selection of Kindle Edition eBooks and there was no real way to keep up.

While it will be sad to see this old, reliable system fade away, I think it is safe to say that superior alternate options abound and people should not generally be terribly inconvenienced by the announcement.  Should you have an existing library of purchased DRM-enabled .lit books laying around that you want to hold onto, you still have a couple options.

Obviously, you can just hang onto your copy of MS Reader.  They aren’t going to show up and start deleting things from your computer, nor are the countless archived copies around the internet going to disappear.  If you are interested in moving entirely to a new platform, however, there’s no point in cluttering up your system with multiple reading applications.

A simple internet search will find programs available to strip the DRM from your .lit files, provided you are indeed the legal owner (I recommend looking into “ConvertLIT).  They are simple to use, tend to be quite fast, and the product will be simple to plug into Calibre for conversion into MOBI or EPUB format.  Just because you jumped on the eReading trend early doesn’t mean you should be held back by the death of a format.

Kindle Tablet Approaches, Amazon Prepares With Expanded Video Streaming

Amazon has just announced a large increase in the number of titles available through their Instant Video service, giving customers access to over 100,000 Movies and TV Shows.  Amazon Prime members can access over 9,000 of those selections at no extra cost beyond their existing membership fees.  While this is of course a good move in general, it works even better with the knowledge of a video-focused Kindle Tablet right around the corner.

There is some  fairly good evidence to support the theory that Amazon is getting ready to try to do with video what they already accomplished in eBooks with the Kindle.  Even if you leave aside the rumors of the Kindle ‘Hollywood’ Tablet, supposedly being produced for late 2011/early 2012 with lots of processing power and a larger screen than most tablets, the support structure is getting pretty large.  Already you can access Amazon Instant Video via many HDTVs, set-top boxes, BluRay players, TiVos, and more, even if you don’t like to watch video on your PC.  Like with the Kindle, once you purchase something you can access it through any device registered to your account.  For the most part this is even true of the Amazon Prime selections.

Up until now, the video library has been rather thin.  It was clear that Amazon was simply testing the waters and no real threat to any of the more established names in the field.  Now, however, things are getting more impressive.  You have a fairly good movie selection, admittedly heavily weighted to older titles (though not so much as was the case previously), and access to many TV shows within a day of airing.

Does this mean that Amazon is poised to shove Netflix out of the way and step into a well-deserved spot on top?  Not really.  By all accounts Netflix hasn’t even really noticed them enough to consider it real competition yet. Who knows what might change in the future, though, with Netflix customers quite vocally unhappy about the handling of recent price hikes due to a jump in operational costs.  It seems like just about everybody is trying to jump on the video streaming bandwagon right now, which means lots of competition but also lots of potential for a well-planned and well-supported endeavor.

With the upcoming Kindle Tablets, Amazon is in a highly advantageous position.  Not only can they advertise hardware optimized for video streaming and integrated directly into existing services of all sorts, but a simultaneous release of an Instant Video for Android App would earn them sales space on the vast majority of competing Tablet PCs.

Such an app would have to be something of an inevitability both because of the choice of OS for the Kindle Tablets and the fact that Amazon’s main goal seems to be harnessing media distribution rather than sales.  No need to completely close off the competing hardware if you are making your money elsewhere anyway.  The Kindle platform has given them a solid grip on the eReading market by being device-independent.  I think we can count on Amazon to have learned from their own success.

1DollarScan Makes Transition to eBooks Simpler, Kindle Format Coming Soon

Aside from the psychological transition required for new users, perhaps the largest thing standing in the way of Kindle adoption among book lovers is the element of collectability that often goes hand in hand with reading.  Over the years, book lovers are prone to ending up with large numbers of books, which only makes sense.  In a situation where not every book you have can be replaced in the new format, especially for a reasonably cheap price, it can be difficult to justify the move to a medium that seems at a glance to offer few advantages to the well stocked book owner.  A new service, 1DollarScan, makes the transition rather significantly easier.

Their focus is, unsurprisingly, cheap scanning of large quantities of documents.  For just $1 per 10 pages of business document or 100 pages of book, getting anything you have on paper converted into a PDF is no longer particularly troublesome.  Due to the way their pricing scheme is set up, any book you might want to have converted will be done for no more than $6.  Not necessarily the solution for a huge library, for a couple reasons, but I could see it being an amazing value.

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering the value of such a service is that you will not be getting your books back.  This is a full move to digital, with no going back, since they chop off the spine of each book to facilitate scanning.  In many instances this will mean you either want to hang onto your original book or find alternate means of eBook acquisition, but not always.

Take, for example, the obscure reference book shelf.  I’m sure many people have one.  Am I attached enough to each particular title to make keeping them around necessary?  Chances are good they would see more use on a portable device anyway.  If we’re talking about particularly narrow-niche publications then you often get a combination of minimal annotation, impossible to find in inexpensive eBook format, and only occasional usefulness.  If you can remove them from your shelf, while making them more functional by having them always available, for just $2-3, it’s worth it.  Even for larger or more well-loved titles, this is the first simple, cheap method that I have found that will allow for retention of your handwritten notes.

Right now, 1DollarScan is only offering their results in PDF format.  For some things, like heavily annotated books, this is ideal.  For the most part, however, I’m looking forward to Kindle compatibility.  They list both the Kindle and the Nook as soon to be supported, so hopefully this won’t be long in coming.  At the moment all documents include an OCR layer anyway, so it seems like a logical next step once they get some momentum behind them.

I don’t believe that anybody will ever want to completely do away with a well established personal library, but that doesn’t mean that every title has equal value.  Not everything needs to take up shelf space.  Now that there are options like the Kindle that allow users to maintain most of their collections without sacrificing actual space in their home or office, where’s the harm in converting?

Check out 1DollarScan at

The Many Advantages of Amazon’s Kindle Store Cleaning

While the focus of Amazon’s new content duplication policy for the Kindle Store is clearly an effort to eliminate the Kindle spam that has become an ongoing problem for customers, it has a couple less obvious effects that work to the advantage of both the company and the customers.  Much of the speculation regarding how the Kindle Store could be cleared of worthlessly repetitive content revolved around the most efficient and advantageous methods that they might have available and clearly an interesting one was found.

The most obvious change, though not entirely new, is to the out of copyright publication.  Perhaps the biggest problem that these have posed many consumers is their variety.  Now, normally variety is always a good thing.  When you know that the content you are acquiring is going to be the same no matter where you get it, however, having ten, twenty, or even fifty versions of the same thing to choose from is simply not helpful.  The in-text annotation and added content that one expects with the many different print editions available to choose from do not translate well to the Kindle experience just yet.  Amazon has done quite well in the past few months at reducing the clutter among these titles, but with the apparent automation of the duplicate-checking that they now have in place it will be that much easier and more reliable.

They have also done a great job of ensuring the most up to date content library available for Kindle customers.  While it would be illegal and quite definitely against all policy to post a stolen work to the Kindle Store, it has not been an unknown occurrence.  Since I started publishing through them, I have personally had three books stolen and attributed to other authors and I know that I am far from the worst affected.  Now, so long as I am the first one to upload my work, there is no need to worry about it.  Not only does this do an excellent job of protecting authors and simplifying the review process for Amazon, since they no longer have to worry about nearly as many theft complaints, it gives further incentive for all self-publishing authors to head to the Kindle Direct Publishing first.

If only to save on the headache of dealing with verifications and lost sales due to delays, authors will likely now feel that much more inclined to give the Kindle priority.  After all, once it is up on the Kindle Store, nobody else should be able to post that content unless the original posting is removed first.  Why risk having to go through the trouble of eliminating an illegal copy made by somebody who downloaded the work elsewhere?

Overall, while I can see specific situations where taking the review process out of human hands could result in over-enforcement, this will do a lot to improve the shopping experience for Kindle owners.  It will do even more to protect authors.  When you take those two groups and keep them happy, it makes life easier for Amazon and makes it even more likely that people new to publishing will choose the KDP.  This would seem to be wins all around.