A recent survey put out by Gartner looked at portable device usage among five hundred or so participants to see how things like tablet computing were changing the way we live. One of the more notable results that they came up with was an indication that over 50% of those involved said that they prefer reading on a screen to reading on paper. This includes newspapers, magazines, and books.
They didn’t specify whether or not the participants logged any of this data based on using a Kindle or other dedicated eReading device, but that matters surprisingly little in this case. The reading experience on portable devices is becoming comparable to, and sometimes superior to, that of reading on paper. Who would have thought?
It would be somewhat foolish to claim that this was the result of the Kindle’s impact of consumer impressions. We’ve been heading toward digital text distribution since the first computers were capable of storing enough text to be useful. It was only a matter of time for it to reach the reading public. It was what the Kindle signaled that accelerated the transition.
Sony already had a better eReader on the market when Amazon released the first Kindle. What they didn’t have was the Kindle Store. Amazon made it easy for their customers to buy popular books. They even went the extra mile and made sure that purchasing could be accomplished right from the device itself. With no more need to find USB cables or memory cards, eReading was finally more convenient than picking up a book from the store. It was sometimes even easier that picking up a book off the shelf.
Over time, adding devices as they went, Amazon brought their selection to practically any device with a screen. The Kindle itself was and is still important for many people, but just about anybody who is interested will always have a device within arm’s reach that can load a book for them now. Convenience has reached an extreme.
Convenience is what the Gartner survey attributes the move away from paper to. Their participants indicated that they were willing to pick up whichever device lay closest to hand for practically any reading situation, even to the point of excluding print at times. Since all participants were required to have a media tablet and at least two other similar devices, being out of touch would have been a stretch.
None of this says that the printed book is really going to disappear. We know that won’t happen any time soon, despite the fact that the death of print has been declared regularly since at least 1984 (extra points for catching the obvious movie reference). What this means is that print is likely to lose its primary position in the reading world, even for magazine and newspaper readers, before too much time is up. Tablets used to be toys, now they are becoming household tools. Prices are dropping, exposure to options like the $79 Kindle is up, and it seems like every day readers get more to choose from. Publishers can’t even entertain the notion of maintaining their old model unaffected at this point.
Jonathan Franzen, author of such wildly popular titles as The Corrections and Freedom has recently made a bit of an impact on the eReading community by coming out against electronic media. Apparently the Kindle is ushering in the end of the book, which normally we would agree is a bad thing that we need to be aware of. Sadly, rather than leading us all to a new understanding of the book as a format that happens to rule out safe transition to digital forms, his arguments against eReading are somewhat misleading and represent a person more interested in rationalizing a knee-jerk reaction to new technology than in understanding what he’s talking about.
Probably the biggest, and certainly the most publicized, aspect of Franzen’s argument centers on his perception of the supposed permanence of the printed word. This makes sense, as after all once something has made it to print it can never be altered. Of course it also completely ignores the facts of multiple book editions, author revisions, and abominations like the 2011 release of censored copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
His assertion that “A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around” and therefore “for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough” is entirely based on the obvious misperception that digital copies are somehow fluid. If you are talking about your personal copy of a book, it is far easier to drop, rip, stain, or otherwise destroy a paper copy than it is to break open the Kindle Edition and make your own changes. Assuming he is talking about the master copy of each book, as in the one that is stored centrally by Amazon, then it would be hard to argue that the printed edition is significantly different in that regard as there have historically been scores of authors with a tendency to re-write later editions of their books. One of Franzen’s own books involved a recall to accomplish exactly this, in fact. I’m fairly hopeful that he didn’t mean to imply that anybody besides the author was likely to go in there and start playing around with the text on a wide scale, but even if that were the case it is not worth addressing here.
It is one thing to claim that you have a strong preference for paper books. There is nothing wrong with that and any number of people would agree with you (myself included depending on the situation). To try to talk others into agreeing with you through groundless arguments is a shame though, especially from somebody in a position to reach such a large number of readers.
Maybe this was all a publicity stunt meant to draw attention to the smaller point he made regarding the dangers of a society obsessed with instant gratification, but if so then he strongly undermined his own credibility by opening with such ridiculous assertions. I won’t even go into the irony of these comments having been made by somebody who has done extremely well in terms of Kindle book sales, but even without that you have to wonder what he was thinking.
When it comes to publishing an indie book, the Kindle Direct Publishing program has done wonders for new authors all over the place. Some, like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, have manages to hit it big as a result. In spite of these examples though, it is impossible to deny that for the most part people don’t take most self published works too seriously at first glance. There are a few big factors that I believe play into this.
The first would be, as sad as it is, poorly designed cover art. Even if you are writing for the Kindle, the first thing people are going to see will be the cover you have chosen to represent your work. A piece of clip art or quick Photoshop-ed photo will only serve to indicate that you couldn’t be bothered with quality control. Nobody will deny that marketing is the most important of making an indie book take off and your cover is the most basic piece of marketing.
Second, and somewhat more intuitive, is editing. If you get comments in reviews about having a poorly edited book, that will work against you. Nobody really likes to read badly written prose even when it tells an amazing story. It can completely destroy immersion at key moments. Now, obviously nobody is perfect and even the best books slip through to print with errors, but that doesn’t mean there is any excuse for failing to triple-check your work and find somebody else to look over it for you too. You’re expecting people to pay money for this in the end, so it should be worth a little extra effort.
Third and finally, is the quick release schedule. While it has become almost commonplace to hear the advice that Kindle publishing requires you to release a book every 6-12 months to retain reader interest, this should be considered very carefully. While you will definitely start making money faster the more of a back catalogue you have going for you, it is more important to make sure that the best possible product is going out. Five poorly reviewed books will not only earn you less money than two well reviewed books in the same time period, they will pull you down even if later works improve dramatically. When you write you are building your name into a brand. Keep in mind how you want that brand to be perceived.
Naturally this is all fairly general and there are a few reasons that all of these points, especially the last one, can be less important for certain projects. There is significant potential in self publishing these days thanks to the Kindle though, and it is painful to see potentially great authors being ignored thanks to missteps made in the rush to get a piece of the readership. Just remember that readers are going to keep reading. The Kindle is more popular all the time and unlikely to fall away as the most widely used eReader in the world any time soon. Take your time and make something you can be proud of.
The iPad and the Kindle have always had a curious love/hate relationship that can be enough to drive many users nuts. While they were expected to compete for users from the moment they were both on the market, the iPad depended on the Kindle for iOS app to deliver a great reading experience to potential adopters while the Kindle just didn’t even try to offer the same kind of tablet versatility. The iPad does lots of things quite well, the Kindle does one thing really well, and users of both devices like to read. Of course it’s at that point of overlap that problems arose.
Amazon was making money, Apple wanted that money for themselves, and now there’s nobody really making much money. You can’t buy books through the Kindle app, the iBooks app is still not really something most people have any particular desire to adopt, and getting the Kindle Cloud Reader set up requires users to look outside of the Apple App Store. eBook acquisition is still perfectly doable, but it is a bit more of a hassle and that means some people just won’t bother.
Enter Inkstone Software with what they hope will be the solution to many peoples’ eBook problems. The company has claimed that this is their way to help out the community that they have benefited so much from. Their new free iPhone and iPad app, called simply “eBook Search”, will allow users to peruse over 2 million free titles from all around the internet. Not only that, the app will allow users to select their reading app of choice and will then acquire their books in a compatible format, ending the hassle of maintaining multiple collections in multiple apps or converting hard to find titles to your preferred format.
The attraction of such an application goes beyond convenience in acquisition of out of copyright “classics”. The developer claims to have allowed for discovery of free eBooks being offered by indie authors, and even popular fan fiction. They hope that this will allow readers who do not have a sufficient budget to allow for prolific reading in an environment where eBooks cost as much or more than physical books to indulge with less hesitation.
If this is at all up your alley, it is definitely worth checking out. Not only will you be getting great literature that can be read on your iPad, Kindle, or whatever else you happen to have, but the more people take advantage of these types of offers the better things start looking for the future of eBooks. If authors are successful in gaining exposure through free eBook offers, more authors will be inclined to try similar campaigns. If readers are loathe to purchase high priced eBooks in the Kindle Store because they can find equally good titles without spending the money, maybe publishers will start getting the message. If nothing else, the worst that can happen from giving it a chance is the loss of a few moments of your time.
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.
One of the biggest flaws in the idea of a Kindle purchase for a lot of people has been the complete lack of library lending support. This isn’t a new problem. It stems from Amazon’s refusal to open up compatibility with the industry standard EPUB format. While Amazon may not have been willing to concede on that point, however, library lending is a must have for customers so they have worked with OverDrive Library, the most popular library lending management tool available today, to bring the capability to the Kindle. Several months back we heard that it was due before the end of the year and little has come up since then, until now.
Toward the end of OverDrive’s Digipalooze conference, one of the biggest unanswered questions was that of Kindle support. When would it be coming, what would it include, how hard would it be to use, and all the other little details. Though many of the specifics are still up in the air, the major points of the final presentation’s focus tell us a lot. Specifically, the final summary:
Streamlining (both downloading and ordering)
Explosion (we have gone from two reading devices to 85 and more are coming)
Premium (the library catalog as the most premium, value-added site on the Web)
Traffic (enormous growth coming by year’s end)
Naturally no specific dates were given, but I’m catching a rather obvious hint hidden in there as to when we can expect results.
This software update will not just include Kindle support. It will also mean an improvement to the experience for all library patrons. The acquisition process will be simplified significantly, for example. While the Kindle will be the only device that maintains persistent notes (meaning that anything you annotate in your library rental will still be there next time you rent or buy the text) , everybody will benefit in some way. There will also be an emphasis on allowing readers to express their preferences when it comes to library ownership. Not every library can keep every title in stock, especially with some publishers disliking the idea of eBook rentals enough to force libraries to keep repurchasing their books constantly, but now users will be able to point out their desired titles to the library or even go directly from the library rentals page to a purchasing option if they don’t feel like waiting.
From the sound of things, this is going to be the biggest thing to hit libraries in a long time. OverDrive is reportedly putting systems in place to handle demand a hundred times more intense than this past year. Kindle support will certainly do a lot to contribute to those numbers, but this may end up being the beginning of a whole new way to view libraries. If everything goes as planned and September is indeed the month of release, it is going to be a big one. Having a library card has never been such a good investment for the eReading enthusiast.
As most of you will almost certainly be aware by now, the ever popular Harry Potter series is on its way to the Kindle. The author, J.K. Rowling, is keeping control over the distribution of the books by attaching her sales platform to the Pottermore companion web site that will be opening this coming October. While the combination of extra content and fan loyalty will certainly make the site and eBook sales even more of a success than we expect, in the meantime the anticipation building around the site has left over-zealous fans open to scams built around the pre-release proceedings.
You see, a lucky few have managed to secure invitations to experience the Pottermore site well ahead of time. There was a contest of sorts that allowed the truly interested to get their names in, but it was arranged in such a way as to technically allow somebody to get multiple invites. This, of course, opens to door to eBay sales even if they are technically against the site’s Terms & Conditions. Sadly as we all know by now, I hope, where there are electronic invitation sales, there are scams.
Harry Potter fans hoping to get in have been singled out for everything from hundred dollar fake early access accounts to total identity theft from some fairly convincing dummy sites asking people for far too much information in order to gain entry. Pottermore admins have, naturally, warned people against falling for these scams and have pointed out that even if people do manage to find a legitimate account transfer they will still be banned for breaking the rules, but when people are trying this desperately to get around existing restrictions and rules there is little chance of such advise from the people creating the barriers being heeded.
If you are one of the millions looking forward to the Pottermore site, whether for access to Kindle versions of the books or to enjoy the content, your best bet is to just wait it out. The only worthwhile avenues at this point are the official ones, so if you don’t see what seems to be your way in written about on the Pottermore placeholder like ‘The Magical Quill’ contest has been then you are inviting trouble by pursuing them.
When the site does open up, Pottermore will be completely free to the public. Users will be able to access it in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more options coming within the year. There will be over 18,000 words of new material for you to read through, a shop to purchase things like eBooks from, a number of simple games that go along with events in the books, and a generally social experience through which to share your enjoyment of the Harry Potter series.
There is a lot there to get excited about, and if you are a big enough fan to be interested in paying large amounts of money just to get into a soon-to-be-free site then you’re probably very excited indeed, but wait it out. Rowling, Harry Potter, and the Pottermore site will all come together in just a couple more months. No book is important enough to risk identity theft or large sums of wasted money.
With the announcement that the Harry Potter series will be offered in eBook for the first time through the author’s very own distribution system (via Kindle, Nook, and pretty much any other device you care to name) rather than through the normal channels or in partnership with any publishing company, J.K Rowling has almost certainly upset some people. More importantly, however, her decision to release the incredibly popular series free of DRM constraints, relying instead on digital watermarking that will identify the original purchaser should a copy be found being distributed, brings the question of Digital Rights Management back to the front of our minds.
The philosophy behind this move will make sense to many people. If you buy an eBook, why should it matter what device you decide to read it on? If you own both a Kindle and a Nook, shouldn’t it be possible to move between them as desired? Publishing companies, as well as eBook distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have traditionally felt that to be wishful thinking. After all, if you can read the eBook on whatever you want, what is to stop you from giving a copy to your friends and family, or even throwing it onto the internet where anybody who wants to read it can get to it for free? They see the restrictions as worth the price if it means that authors and publishers will continue to get their cut for each reader who comes along.
I look at this release as an experiment. We will get a chance to see how an author fares when she takes an already established and well known collection of books and releases them digitally with very little control. Will Harry Potter fans show up in huge numbers to buy the series yet again just so that they can read it on their Kindles? Is it too late to catch the attention of most now that the series has already sold so well? Perhaps the majority will even feel entitled to pirate the series, having already spent as much as $150+ on a complete set of the hardcovers. This last point, in particular, holds certain weight for me since it gets to the heart of the DRM issue at hand.
If you buy for one medium, be it paper or Kindle, are you paying for the specific instance of that product, or are you paying for access to the information it contains. If the former, then the DRM scheme we have now should be fine. If anything, it is fairly lenient. You would be paying for the opportunity to read a book on one specific platform and anything else is extra. If, on the other hand, we are buying the information contained in the instance, then it makes sense to be able to access it via any device we have on hand. Maybe paper books make more sense as collectables in a system like that?
Regardless of what the truth is, or how the public will choose to interpret it given this opportunity, Rowling is going to make loads of money. Kindle owners are going to show up for this one. The difference between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars could be how we have to judge the outcome of this experiment in the end. It could easily become a point in favor of the abolishment of restrictive DRM, if people are honest.
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.
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.
The Amazon Kindle is great and all, but for many lovers of the printed word there is something still lacking. The History. We can download the newest books to our Kindles and forget about them. We can collect and delete and have no real need to take them seriously because they have no substance anyway. They’re just data. Real paper books on the other hand have survived for centuries. You can pick up a paper book from a hundred years ago and still turn the pages and read the words that somebody enjoyed long before you were born. Can you say the same about Kindle eBooks? The problem with this argument is, of course, that it is thoroughly ridiculous.
The virtue of an old book, to your average reader, is not necessarily its age. The value is the information it contains. You don’t just grab a 200 year old manuscript off the shelves for some pleasure reading. I’m not going to say that there is nothing to be gained from a direct study of old physical texts, because there is, but for you and me it is probably more useful to pick up a brand new copy of the Commedia or Beowulf. If we are to stipulate that the value of the book is in the information it contains, which I think is fair, then the eBook on the most basic level is just a distillation of the book concept. This on its own does not mean that the format has any particular value in the long term, though.
I think that at the core of this argument is the question of what one believes that the future will bring. Whether or not we have faith in the potential for progress. It is true that the paper book requires no batteries, wires, accounts, or anything else. It can also degrade to the point of uselessness or easily be destroyed. The Kindle requires many or all of these things, but a Kindle eBook exists independently of the physical device you hold in your hand. It is not only here, or even on the server, but also on thousands of computers all over the world. Even if 90% of the existing copies are destroyed, it is the work of minutes or hours to replace them should the demand grow enough. So long as the ability to read eBook files remains, and that seems to not be going away, these books are safe and the best loved will always be around. Unless you somehow believe that computers and the internet are a temporary thing, it just makes sense.
Now, I don’t blame people for their skepticism on this. On a personal level it can seem a little bit off. A Kindle book is certainly more easily forgotten or lost than a paper book. In both cases, though, we’re talking about a single instance of the “book” as a collection of information. Which is going to persist: a file that can be copied and replaced on demand, or a printing with a set number of units? If we’re really talking about the long term benefits of books, then this matters more than most things in my opinion.
I acknowledge that this is a narrow kind of argument that fails to take into account the benefits of having multiple formats and a wide network of distribution, but I’ve heard enough talk about how long books have survived over the years as a way of pointing out the newness and untried nature of the Kindle that it seemed worth pointing out. Take what you will from it, but try to keep in mind that just as what is new isn’t always good it also isn’t always bad either.
I haven’t had a chance to write down any interesting book recommendations for Kindle fans in a while now, but I figure that since I have a decent list piling up it might be time to share. It’s been an enjoyable couple months of reading and I’ve got several more modern fantasy offerings that I hope you will enjoy. I did. They aren’t the cheapest books I could find, but they are definitely worth the asking price.
Kraken – China Miéville
This is really one of the best books I’ve read all year, even if it isn’t necessarily the best thing ever written by the author. It is a decently complex fantasy mystery set in a London strangely reminiscent of that in Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It’s a world of cults, secrecy, underworld politics, and strange powers. On top of that, there is a magically missing giant squid which seems to be at the heart of a plot that could end the world forever.
I’m honestly a little confused about the mixed reception that Kraken has gotten so far. It is averaging 3 Stars overall in the Kindle Store, but deserves more. It worked in most ways, but some people may find it a bit off-putting from what I’m told. While it might not be for everybody, if you think you would enjoy a complex story that forces you to understand the protagonist’s state of mind during unexpected culture shock then I’d say give it a go.
The Kindle Edition is $11.99
Something From the Nightside – Simon Green
This is the first in a fairly substantial series by Green. It’s a quick, fun read that I can’t describe much better than Pulp Detective Fiction meets Moorcock’s Multiverse. The main character is a professional detective with no actual detecting skill besides a “gift” that lets him find anything magically. The fact that it manages to be a fun read is proof of the concept that it can be more interesting to watch a mystery being solved than to understand the process by which it is solved.
In a lot of ways, this reads like the author’s personal homage to all the things he loves in literature. You’ll catch references, both overt and subtle, to the existence of things taken from dozens of different major genre works you might have read. After something as dense and complex as Kraken, it makes a great fun diversion.
The Kindle Edition is $7.99
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
This is sort of a harsh take on Harry Potter with a bunch of CS Lewis thrown in for good measure. Basically, Magic is real and people learn to use it at secret schools where only the best of the best can get in and learn to manipulate the world to their liking.
Unlike many books with similar concepts, this isn’t an uplifting story of wish fulfillment and overcoming adversity. The characters are undeniably human and manage to overcome the sort of “nerdy teenager gains superpowers” cliche that you might expect at first. I found it to be a genuinely interesting, and occasionally troubling, look at what it really means to be offered everything you ever thought you wanted. The outline of the story is familiar, but the execution is beyond excellent.
The Kindle Edition is $12.99
Long before we had the Kindle to play with, Amazon was still making a big impression in book sales. They got started over 15 years ago now and in that time managed to become the number one destination for anybody wanting to pick up reading material. This in itself is an amazing achievement for any company. Then, 4 years back, they introduced the Kindle. A good situation got better. In these four years, Amazon has brought the eBook from a fad to a point where sales of electronic texts exceed those of print books in their entirety.
That’s right, it finally happened. Since April 1st, Amazon’s Kindle Store has sold 105 Kindle eBooks for every 100 print books they have sold in any format. We knew it was going to happen eventually, of course. First they outsold hardcovers last July, then paperbacks six months later, and now this. The speed of the progression is as impressive as the accomplishment itself.
To put this in the proper perspective, a couple things need to be kept in mind. For one, all of these milestones I mention were factoring in only paid sales. The free editions that tend to be the first selection of the new Kindle owner were left out for obvious reasons or else this probably would have happened a while back. Really, how many people make their way through all their free downloads though?
Also, given the timing, this clearly came prior to and had nothing to do with the introduction of the discounted, ad-supported Kindle w/ Special Offers. This means that you can’t consider this more widely appealing Kindle offering to be part of the trend when Amazon lets us know that their 2011 Kindle Edition sales to date have been more than three times those of 2010. When you consider than in about a month the Kindle w/ Special Offers has become the best selling member of the Kindle family by far, the trend seems poised to continue.
The Kindle Store is now home to over 950,000 titles, including 109 of 111 current NYT Best Sellers. The vast majority of these titles are priced under $9.99, including the aforementioned Best Sellers. Again, these numbers don’t even try to factor in the millions of titles that are available for free due to expired copyrights or the many books available through other sources that can be used on the Kindle. On top of this, new titles are being added all the time including many from Amazon’s successful self-publishing platform. Over 175,000 books have been added to the store in 2011 alone.
We’ve known for a long time that the eBook was on the rise. It was only a matter of time before it became the dominant format. While this is only citing the success of one retailer, Amazon is leading the way. They have localized stores in multiple countries, are steadily expanding, and continue to distribute the most popular eReader on the market in spite of steadily increasing competition from tablets and competing eReaders. Even without the upcoming Kindle Tablets, the Kindle is demonstrating an ability to keep up the momentum.
At first, when I came across this free e-book source, I was suspicious that this website will be our regular free e-book scam full of links that lead to anything, but the e-books. However, after some quality time spent on Open Culture, I was impressed by the textbook section.
To access it, press “Textbooks” on the right top corner. Though, the list of free textbooks is not very extensive, the variety of subjects is pretty nice: Linguistics, Physics, Mathematics, Political Science, Music, History, Biology, Economics & Finance, Engineering, Earth Science etc.
The textbooks are offered in various formats. The reason for this is that the books are hosted on different servers. This is a well selected collection of links that lead to text-books’ locations. For example, A Textbook of the History of Painting by John Charles Van Dyke is actually located on Project Gutenberg site. Hence, there is an option for downloading it in MOBI format for your Kindle. Introduction to Physical Oceanography by Dr. Robert Stewart is hosted by Texas A&M University and it is in PDF format. Calculus by Gilbert Strang is offered by MIT in PDF format.
Also, Open Culture collects the list of the usual classics and links for free audiobooks.
Open Source’s list of textbook perhaps is one of the better lists I’ve seen so far. Hopefully, you kindlized students out there will find this source useful. Happy studying!
Oddly enough, one of the prerequisites for blogging about the Kindle isn’t a strong rapport with young people. I’ll admit right off the bat that I don’t know much about kids. They’re small and high pitched and seem to enjoy climbing on things? The few I know also seem to really like dogs. We have that in common! Anyway, while my practical knowledge of children is lacking I have been encouraged recently, in light of the Harry Potter eBook possibility, to look into some of the children’s lit that is available for the Kindle. It turns out there is a fair selection out there.
The Giver – Lois Lowry
Chances are good you’ll recognize this one. The Giver is a classic, after all. It’s a story about a seemingly “perfect” society where everything is carefully controlled. Population is limited, careers are carefully selected well in advance for children, there is no crime, no drama, and neither old age nor imperfection have any real place in it. Naturally this isn’t quite the paradise it seems at a glance.
It’s a simple but powerful book that many people definitely remember fondly with good reason. Addresses social issues, quite well in an engrossing kind of way that surely fits the educational requirement many parents have for their kids’ reading.
The Kindle Edition is $6.64
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
I was actually rather shocked to find out that this book/series was for children, given all the adults I heard raving about it. The premise is a cross between Death Race, Battle Royale, and the Survivor Reality TV show. While it is a bit violent, I’d say it’s definitely less shocking than your average PG-13 movie, so I doubt there will be many parental concerns overall.
The response to this book, the first in a trilogy, has been overwhelmingly positive in pretty much every age group. The characters are strong and believable. The plot deals with interesting, if not entirely original social issues. There’s really nothing at all that I could find to complain about.
The Kindle Edition is $5.00
The Red Pyramid – Rick Riordan
This is the first book in the second series that Riordan has come up with so far. The first, the Percy Jackson series, you’ve probably heard of because of the movie that came out of it if nothing else. This series is based on a similar concept, but focused on Egyptian mythology rather than Greek. The story is presented through the eyes of a brother and sister in the frame of a transcript of the story. It works to provide a fairly unique multi-view perspective as he switches between the siblings, and allows for some variation in the narrative voice that keeps it interesting.
There is a lot more information presented in this book than in the Percy Jackson series. It is definitely bigger on educating the reader. This could be because Riordan simply thought it was more interesting to talk about or because he assumed that there was a greater familiarity that you could assume when dealing with Greek mythology, but either way it fits.
The Kindle Edition is $9.39
There have been a wide range of responses to the announcement of Amazon’s new ad-supported Kindle release this past week. For the most part, people seem to approve. Amazon made a smart move when they decided to have the ads be unobtrusive and potentially personalized. This leads me to wonder what the future holds as far as advertising subsidized eReading possibilities.
Let’s face it, it’s impossible to get away from ads on a day to day basis. They’re all over the net, the roads, buses, walls, shipping containers…I could go on. How much do we really care anymore, though? The reason that this was such a great move for Amazon is that people are already so used to seeing ads and simply filtering them out without giving it much thought that this small addition won’t have any major effect. It isn’t as if they were being placed in such a manner as to interfere with immersion while reading, after all.
I wonder how long it will be before we can get books with the same advantage, though? Obviously, some people have already caught on to the potential and made a business model out of it (WOWIO). It is demonstratively possible, therefore, to have an unobtrusive advertising presence in a book. Not really that much different from your average paperback’s large note that it has recently been made into a movie or television show, when you think about it. I’m really hoping this becomes a trend for the Kindle.
While I don’t support the inclusion of ads mid-text, I think most people would be willing to glance through one or two as they flip to page one of a new book if that meant that the book was cheaper or even free. This could definitely work as a way to alter the existing Agency Model pricing scheme that makes eBook purchasing an almost comically overpriced experience from time to time. Give users the option of the normal book for the usual price, but a copy with ads included for 50% off. How many people will really turn down that opportunity to save money just because ads are obnoxious?
I’m not advocating the WOWIO model, necessarily. I see this as having potential as a flag in the downloaded file that turns ads on or off on a case by case basis. This would allow for the updating of advertisements from time to time and avoid the problem of outdated messages. What would be the point of a sales announcement if you didn’t get around to seeing it until two months after the fact, right?
Still, the Kindle‘s new pricing due to ad inclusion is a huge step in the right direction. If, as has often been speculated, Amazon is selling their products at or below cost then something needs to be done to drive the prices further down. I know we’re all really hoping for those rumored free Kindles toward the end of the year, however unlikely the prospect.
Owing perhaps to the impressive holiday sales figures for the Kindle, Nook, and others at the end of 2010, an announcement from the Association of American Publishers has confirmed that February 2011 saw eBooks outselling every other format of book available. While this isn’t precisely a surprise given the not too far gone announcement from Amazon that Kindle Editions were their bestselling format, it demonstrates that the trend is ever on the rise.
According to the same announcement, compared to February 2010 the sales figures for this past February have increased by over 200% for eBooks and sales of print books in all formats combined declined by nearly 25% over a similar period. Downloaded audio books also saw a bit of a boost with over 26% growth from the prior year. Everything digital is getting increasingly acceptable to the average consumer, especially the sorts of things that can fit on a Kindle. What is perhaps the most impressive part of this for me is that judging by the tone of the text, publishers are attempting to pass this off as a demonstration of how great they’re doing at providing readers with what they want. I’m going to have to say that I disagree.
What we’re seeing now is, in some ways, a bit like the move from audio cassettes to compact discs. Sure it takes a while to catch on, but most people are eventually at least willing to give it a try and very few people find themselves truly disappointed (and to head off complaints, no I am not trying to extend the metaphor to say that paper books will inevitably cease to exist. We know that’s not likely to happen). As people adopt the new format, they go back and grab their favorites. According to the AAP, there is a trend reported from many publishers where a reader will buy the most recent work of an author and then go back to pick up the entire catalog of that author’s work. Is the logical assumption really that the reader in question has never read one of this author’s books before and was so impressed that they blew a hundred dollars grabbing the rest? I’d say it’s more likely that these figures reflect fans picking up old favorites.
For an industry that has resisted what seems to be a logical and inevitable progression to the point of imposing arbitrary format-wide pricing schemes aimed at countering popular adoption, it seems a bit hypocritical to be throwing out quotes like “The February results reflect two core facts: people love books and publishers actively serve readers wherever they are” and “publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of ‘books.’” It’s almost amusing to think of how hard it is going to be in coming years to keep things going the way they are in the face of authors taking advantage of the ability to self-publish for things like the Kindle and still manage to get on bestsellers lists. These figures aren’t a reflection of how well the publishing industry is adapting to serve its customers, they are demonstrative of the increasing momentum of eReaders in spite of the best efforts of the industry to prevent change. Not so great for them, but amazing for readers.
As somebody who both loves having a Kindle and who is proud of his fairly extensive physical library, it can be infuriating to hear people talk about their perception that eReaders stand in opposition to books. I will certainly acknowledge that there is a completely different tactile experience that you get when reading a printed book. I’m not even going to try to make the claim that it isn’t superior to that of the eReader, since that’s obviously a matter of personal preference rather than objective evaluation. What I promote, however, is the idea that while it may be important in some cases, as a general rule the medium through which a text comes to you should always be secondary to the text itself.
When I buy a book, speaking solely for myself, I buy it because I want something to read. When there’s something I particularly like, or when there’s an edition that adds something that can’t be found elsewhere, I grab a copy for the bookshelf. This keeps it available, visible, easily referenced, and has a certain aesthetically pleasing effect. In no situation that I can think of, however, would I grab a book that I have no interest in reading. What would be the point? Now, assuming you’re still with me to this point, it only stands to reason that eReaders like the Kindle make a book-lover’s life a little easier.
Even if you leave aside the issue of bulk and transportation when it comes to a paper book, there’s a big advantage to having books available electronically. Availability. An eBook never runs out at the local store, never goes out of print, and theoretically will never wear out. While there is a certain nostalgia in picking up a well-loved old book that is just coming apart at the seams, I’d rather than a copy that is as readable the tenth time as it was the first. And if I want to go back and read the author’s earlier works because I liked it so much, I don’t want to have to worry about the book being out of print or on weeks of back-order at the local book store. In either of those cases, I’d be more likely to put the idea of reading what I want aside because it would be more hassle than enjoyment. Thanks to the Kindle, no worries.
It should go without saying that this only serves to enhance the existing system rather than detract from it. There will always be situations where you want a paper copy, whether it is to fill a book shelf, doodle in the margins, run a highlighter over, or what have you. In the end, however, it’s better to have the text available. That is the primary concern on which everything else rests, and the service that the Kindle provides. One way or another, if an eBook has existed then it is highly unlikely that it will fail to be available should you need it. This cannot be a bad thing, when what you truly care about is experiencing the text of a book.
Kindle Singles have been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. They occupy a strange space in the eBook marketplace. While there’s obviously a place for good short fiction in any library, perhaps even more so now that Kindles make it so simple to index large collections, we run into issues of perceived value in book purchasing. So I guess the question is that of what role this category fills going forward.
Theoretically, this is an ideal place to open up a set of texts that your average reader might not have had access to previously. Not many things make it to printing in the 5,000 to 30,000 word range, traditionally, unless they happen to make it into an anthology of some sort. One problem that I’m seeing, however, is that these less extensive works have a bit of trouble edging into the field of view of your average eBook reader.
You’ve got thousands of freebies on the one side, including hundreds of the best books ever written historically and at least as many new writers trying to break into the marketplace by offering at least first volumes without charge, and on the other there are successful authors making amazing work and selling it for anywhere from $0.99 – $2.99 through Amazon. We all live in a world where you have to get the most for your money. Now, clearly it is hard to quantify the value of a book. There are far too many variables to narrow it down in any way and the value for one person might well be completely different from that for another. What do we have to compare with? The number of stars in a review and the number of pages in the text are basically the only applicable quantities. The question about the applicability of ratings is best left for another time. The inherent subjectivity and bias in the existing system have come up before and will again. Page numbers are a matter of real concern though.
Objectively, I know that good writing can be found in any number of styles and lengths. There’s no reason that $2 spent on a Kindle Single wouldn’t be better spent than on a similarly well reviewed Kindle Edition from any other category in the store. There’s this little voice in the back of my head when I think about it, however, that reminds me that even if it’s great, the book will be over far too soon. As such, I’m pushed back toward traditional length works. Definitely a dilemma.
For the moment, Kindle Singles are focused on Journalism, Biography, and various other things that can best be presented in their relative completeness without using too many words. There’s so much potential in the short fiction market though. I just have no idea how to bring it to the table in a competitive way when larger-scale works are going so cheaply. Anybody have a decent take on this that they’ve seen somewhere or come up with on their own? Even aware as I am of the problems of equating quantity with quality, this is something I’m having trouble wrapping my head around.
While presenting these recommendations, I’ve gotten a lot of responses about non-literary Kindle books. Admittedly, I’ve questioned throwing anything like that up here, but I figure that since people are sending me links it’s likely that at least some of you would be interested! Today, we have some self-help style books that claim to offer advise on just generally feeling better through basic, cheap methods. Now, unless we’re talking about a bear who just looooves picnic baskets, my experiences with things like yogis are limited at best. In order to bring the best input possible, I consulted somebody who knows a bit more. Here’s what we came up with.
How To Meditate: A Step-by Step Guide to the Art and Science of Meditation
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you can’t really go wrong with an informative title that costs as little as this. The attraction of this particular title stems from the treatment. It is informative without preaching or attempting to do much in the way of selling readers on a personal philosophy. It’s also quite focused, which seems unusual for such a book. Novak presents easily understood instructions on body positioning, breathing patterns, and all that fun stuff, all with accompanying illustration for those who might need it (though these illustrations don’t look quite as good on the Kindle as on paper). Even if you don’t buy into the underlying philosophy, I think it’s probably useful as a general relaxation technique, and who couldn’t use something like that these days?
The Kindle Edition is $4.00
Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing
There is no shortage when it comes to yoga books. Most of them toss out a variety of poses, name them, and leave it at that. Probably useful for some people, but a more instructive approach is nice. This one instructs and accounts for a variety of different fitness levels. Great for anybody who doesn’t know what they’re doing so far. The author also spends a lot of time on, as the title implies, medical applications of yoga. While some of the claims seem a little stretched to me personally, I’m don’t feel that my background is sufficient to judge medical matters. If that’s your thing, check it out and maybe learn something. Even if you don’t, it’s easy to take this as a low-impact fitness guide that just about anybody can handle in comfort. The portability of the Kindle is a plus compared to the often-bulky yoga books that many people will be used to as well.
The Kindle Edition is $15.99
the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time
It’s no secret that overeating is a big deal for a lot of people. It’s a lot easier to get into bad habits than it is to break them. This book seems to have a somewhat different approach than the usual Diet + Willpower equation that fails people so regularly. The author promotes awareness of the situations that cause you to eat, thinking about what brings on cravings, and knowing how to avoid things like habitual or depressed eating. Admittedly, some of the advice is a bit intuitive and seems weird to have to be elaborated, but bringing this sort of thing out into the open might help you out if you’ve had to deal with failed diets a time or two in the past or just want to improve on some bad habits.
The Kindle Edition is $9.99
So, we’re back again to the conversation regarding the ever-unpopular Agency Model for pricing of Kindle and other eBooks. For once we have some actual solid new developments, though not necessarily any major changes as a result yet.
First off we have Random House, the only major holdout up until this point, caving on the issue and joining the other publishers in abandoning the traditional wholesale pricing in favor of setting the price retailers can sell eBooks for directly. While this isn’t precisely a surprise, it is a little disappointing. The advantage in the short term is clear for the company, however, since it makes them eligible to sell their books through the semi-popular Kindle competition application, iBooks (more on the Kindle vs iPad situation another time). The advantage may turn out to be less than useful in the long run, however, and not just because of the impact it will have on customer satisfaction.
This past week, European Union Antitrust regulators raided the offices of a number of publishers (at this time undisclosed) in furtherance of an investigation into potential breach of price fixing regulations by the adoption of the aforementioned Agency Model. Given the high levels of concern the EU has for avoiding restrictions of competition, these companies could be on the hook for enormous fines if they are found in violation. While at this time there is no indication that anything more than investigation is happening, and certainly no charges are being filed, it has to be making people a bit nervous.
What amuses me most about all this is not the potential penalties that publishers may incur so much as how little I see them mattering in the long run. See, the overall impact of the model seems to have been nothing more than an increasing interest in self-publishing and eBook piracy. They’re really not doing themselves any favors.
The main argument in favor of the Agency model that I have heard seems to be directed specifically at Amazon and the Kindle. Amazon’s known for taking new bestsellers and discounting them to near- or even below-cost and making up the difference on the bulk of other sales. Given their success, probably good for business. In order to improve their Kindle platform they were doing something similar with eBooks for a while. It was just always cheaper to buy an eBook, which makes sense, right? Publishers came to the conclusion that it was actually devaluing their property. If customers came to expect eBooks to be cheap, then how could the publishing companies earn as much as they want? Hence the current situation.
Do people actually pay for books that cost more digitally than they do in a hardcover, though? Probably some, but you have to think it’s unlikely overall. It isn’t all that hard to grab a copy of the book you want through alternate means when you feel it’s the only way to get the book you need without being taken advantage of, and I’m informed it’s becoming an increasingly popular choice. I don’t endorse piracy, but you can’t blame customers for this one. You have to get value for your money, these days more than ever, and if the publisher doesn’t get that, then they’re responsible for costing both themselves and the author the sale.
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.
I 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.
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.
However, 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.
Once 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.
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.
I 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.
While there has always been the option to send Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) gift cards to friends and family around the holidays in hopes that they will get that Kindle book that you think they just need to read, it has rarely been a very satisfactory solution to the problem. There’s no certainty that it won’t just be used toward some bizarre hunting supplies or unexpected science-like things. I know that when I’m trying to give a gift, I like it to arrive as intended!
Well, the problem has finally been addressed. If you want to get a book for your favorite (or even not-so-favorite) Kindle owner, now you can! The Kindle Store is now advertising the ability to gift an eBook to anybody with an email address. At first glance, there are obvious problems with this, of course. What if I mistype the email address? What if they don’t have a Kindle? What if I want to send to somebody in Canada, where I’m told Amazon doesn’t believe in selling most ebooks? What if the book I send them is actually really, really bad? Ok, that last one isn’t really Amazon’s problem.
The process is this: You click on the big friendly “Give as a Gift” button and the site takes you along to the next screen where you get to log in, assuming you hadn’t already. You pop in the recipient’s email address(which you DO seem to have to spell correctly, so be careful), attach a friendly gift message for the email, and place the order. Simple as that. If they don’t like the book idea you came up with, they can exchange the eBook for an Amazon gift card. If the eBook isn’t available, presumably because it is difficult for some publishers to imagine their books in the hands of crazy foreigners, then the recipient gets that same Amazon gift card. The best part is, literally every Kindle book is available through this service. For once, no silly new exclusions or restrictions so far.
Incidentally, I was honestly planning to address the problem of the person you want to send a gift to not having a Kindle. It occurred to me, however, that at this point there are so many Kindle Apps floating around for various platforms that it is extremely unlikely for somebody to have a device they can access their email on that cannot also display a Kindle book. Sure, I personally don’t think the experience is anything near satisfactory on a cell phone, but presumably you have a good idea of what the intended reader will have available anyway.
Overall this is definitely a great thing for consumers. I know that it’s often been a problem for me to try to handle gift distribution for people I know who no longer prefer physical copies of books, or who only read on a Kindle while traveling, and this should go a long way toward solving that problem. It’s also an excellent way to offset the limitations of the book lending situation which, in spite of being something you can’t hold Amazon exactly accountable for, is rather disappointing. At least now if you have something you want to share, you can do so without extensive collaboration with the intended reader.
I’ve already used this service to send out a couple of my favorites to friends. The one complaint that I do have, though I can understand the motivation behind the decision, is that you cannot “gift” free Kindle books. I would love to be able to just send along a free copy of something that’s being given away anyway as part of a promo or just for the heck of it. Maybe we’ll see something like that in the future.