About

On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

Recent Comments

April 2018
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Amazon Kindle Now Sells More Books Than Print

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.

Kindle Book Recommendations: Children’s Books

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

Hank Moody Comes to Kindle

God Hates Us AllSo, I was stuck in San Francisco airport: sitting, standing, chilling, staring blankly at my Kindle (trying to look busy). I discovered that my Kindle is full of highly sophisticated literature that I always hope to read. I also discovered that I am completely incapable of reading anything with profound literary meaning and symbolism when I’m stuck in an airport. “Gimmi something brain-numbing” – I thought, as I shook my Kindle. Nothing really fell out from the Kindle because, as we all know, shaking is not exactly the most successful strategy of uploading literature on Kindle.

And then I saw it. I saw “Hank Moody” in the author section. God Hates Us All by Hank Moody! Those who recognize this name perhaps realize how intrigued I felt.

So, I bought it. And yes, I do not think that $11.99 is particularly cheap (oh, wow, and this is the sale price), but I was stuck in the airport desperate for some entertainment – and really, it is very difficult not to be entertained by a book inspired by Californication – the profane TV show full of drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. How could I abstain from this bundle of joy?

I finished reading God Hates Us All in one sitting. No, it is not really thought-provoking. I did see some people attempting to make this easy-to-read book into something more meaningful by highlighting trivial phrases such as “Don’t let your perceptions of your circumstances limit your possibilities” (p. 54). Seventeen people highlighted “I don’t know what I’m talking about. My brain’s been running low on oxygen from the minute I saw you tonight” (p. 89) – I’m guessing it’s more of a pick-up line to-remember than anything else.

Even though, I’m being purposefully dismissive towards Hank Moody’s creation (I do not want you to have high expectations), the book is enjoyable and entertaining. And it effectively helped me to murder some time. Also, if you are a fan of Californication – come on, Hank Moody wrote it! (wink)

How to Productively Criticize High Kindle Book Prices

I’ve noticed no small number of negative reviews going around for Kindle books that publishers insist on pricing above their corresponding hardcover editions. I wholeheartedly approve!  What makes it worth commenting on at the moment, however, are the ones that come from verified customers.  Seriously, how does that make sense?

Let’s think about this for a moment.  When you buy an eBook, you are making a statement.  You are telling publishers that “yes, this eBook is worth at least as much to me as you are asking me to pay for it.”  If it were not, then you would have kept the money.  I can almost understand where somebody who buys an alternate edition of a given book, say a paperback, can justify popping into the reviews to talk about the fact that they would have rather had an affordably priced eBook, but once again it fails to mean anything to a publisher who is already going out of their way to encourage their customers to avoid eBooks and stick to the traditional paper medium.  The publishers simply will not care about your complaints while they can view them as confirmation of the view that readers are willing to cave to the pressures of the model they have forced on the industry.

But obviously you want to read a good book, right?  Otherwise there really wouldn’t be much of a point in having a Kindle to begin with.  If you don’t purchase something to read, you don’t get to do the reading.  Fortunately, the sheer volume of options available, especially now, should work in your favor.  This is a great chance to indulge in a collection of new authors.  I would say there’s an excellent chance that you’ll be able to find something to your taste among the increasingly prominent crowd of self-publishers, if nothing else. Personally, I also find a great deal of excellent expense-free reading material from sites like Manybooks and the Baen Free Library, although I can understand that some people might be hesitant due to their “limited” selections (Not much in the way of current Bestsellers).

Whether you like the idea of altering your reading habits or not is going to be a personal choice.  I tend to view a reason to go through the wider variety of publications as a positive rather than an inconvenience.  The alternative is to accept that when it comes down to it, the publishers have a point and you simply do value grabbing the newest books at the highest prices to the point where they can get away with continuing on the path they have been.  Complaining isn’t going to do much, as far as I can see, if it’s followed by caving in on the issue.

The Kindle offers a practically unlimited selection of eBooks to choose from.  More than any person could hope to read in a lifetime.  And that’s great, of course.  What brought many people around to the eReader alternative was the promise of less expensive reading material that reflects the lower cost of production.  The desire for, or even necessity of, that change is something that I feel should be made clear to the publishing houses, even if it means putting off grabbing a popular new book or heading to the library to read it there.

Publishers Claim Credit For Success of Kindle Editions & Other eBooks

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.

Kindle vs Nostalgia: Why Books Aren’t Harmed By eBooks

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 Book Recommendations: Romance

The theme of the day is Romance books for the Kindle!  Specifically, romance books revolving around crazy supernatural types of things.  I understand that’s the big thing these days, after all, and I had to narrow it down somewhere.  Can you imagine trying to pick three unique Harlequin Romances to throw up?  Anyway, being fairly new to the genre I’ve gone with a couple of what I understand are fairly big names. This was a surprisingly fun list to go through, though, and I heartily recommend a browse even to people who aren’t normally wild about this particular theme in their reading.  I’m leaving out Hocking on purpose, since she seems to fit better into a niche for younger readers.

Halfway to the Grave – Jeaniene Frost

Catherine Crawfield has very simple ambitions in life: working hard in her grandparents’ cherry orchard, trying to keep her mother from diving into the bottle one more time, and trying to kill the undead monster that fathered her. This is the first book in a series that seems more than a little clichéd at first, but build up enough momentum as the plot and relationships develop to be worth sticking it out for.

While I can’t say anything about the later books in the series, you can tell that there’s potential and the writing is definitely good enough to make it tempting to keep on going with it.  If nothing else, this doesn’t seem like something that’s heading downhill.

The Kindle Edition is $7.99

Shadow Game – Christine Feehan

When Dr. Whitney, the scientist in charge of the experiment he volunteered for, goes missing, Captain Ryland Miller finds himself in a high security mansion with Lily Whitney where he begins to think that maybe the psychic powers brought on by this experiment aren’t his only concern.

The plot is thin.  There’s no denying that.  The flamboyant characterizations serve as a decent way to offset that, though. The real redeeming aspect, for me at least, was the amazing sense that the author knows exactly how far-fetched the scenarios she has come up with really are and is choosing to go with it anyway.  There are some real stretches and no small number of amazingly overextended metaphors.  This was a blast for me, if perhaps not in the same way that I would imagine some fans would prefer for it to have been.  Not at all an intended insult to the author.  This was pure fun if you can avoid taking it too seriously.

The Kindle Edition is $7.99

Guilty Pleasures – Laurell K. Hamilton

It’s my understanding that there’s some controversy over this author.  Looking through the list of her works, it definitely seems she’s gone a bit downhill over the years.  That said, she apparently started out well.  This one is the first book in an ongoing series set in what is now an almost cliched world of human/supernatural coexistence.  Looking back, it seems to me that she got in on that early enough that it’s excusable.

The writing is strong, the plot is fairly compelling, and the characters are believable if not necessarily deep.  What surprised me here was the lack of emphasis on graphic scenes, given what I’d heard about the series.  Overall, definitely something I would recommend even to those who aren’t romance fans.

The Kindle Edition is $7.99

.
With this one, I’ve come to the end of my easily categorizable list of recommendations from readers.  Feel free to send along some more to spread the word to fellow Kindle book lovers by emailing me!

Kindle Book Recommendations: Health

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

The Current State of the Agency Model and Why It Matters: The Effect on Kindle Book Publishing

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.

Quality and Kindle Book Publication

A few weeks ago, I posted some recommendations for Kindle-based reading material.  One of the books I brought up caused some problems for people because, while the book itself was great, the copy on the Kindle Store was overpriced and has some pretty glaring errors that indicate inferior quality control.  This got me thinking about the current arguments for and against self-publishing in the digital world.

One of the things we’ve heard over and over again from publishers is that when you price your ebooks too low, it cuts down on the money they can afford to spend on the typical overhead that goes into book publication.  That is, editors, publicists, etc, all fall away.  This particular book (Dune by Frank Herbert for anybody that’s interested) was clearly not more than a step or two removed from a scan of the paper book run through some OCR software.  Where’s the advantage to paying the extra money in situations like these?  I’ve chosen this book as a good example, but I’ve found that it isn’t uncommon for books originally published pre-ebook to have these errors in them while still being sold for the same price as newer books with proper quality control.

In case you’re unfamiliar with OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, let me explain as briefly as I can.  You start with a scanned image of a page.  Just a picture basically. You then feed it into your OCR software which “looks” at the page and tries to pick out words and formatting to make it into a text-based document.  You need to do this in order to have the resizable text, font choices, text to speech, etc that make the Kindle so neat.  Sometimes the resultant text is nearly pristine, sometimes it is highly flawed.  OCR has come a long way over the years, but even so it’s unlikely for you to ever get a completely perfect scan the first time through.  You need a human, usually with no tool more complex than a basic spell checker, to run through and look for instances when the software mistook an ‘h’ for ‘l n’ and other such near equivalencies, not to mention random brackets and semicolons that for some reason just appear out of nowhere sometimes.

These are not difficult problems to address.  Your average underpaid intern could manage to get through most novels in an afternoon or two.  Maybe a little more for books like Dune that make up a lot of dictionary-unfriendly words and force you to pay attention, but the point stands.  If all the fuss over pricing really stems from the value present in a professionally published eBook rather than a potentially poorly edited self publisher, then why aren’t we getting finished products?

I didn’t mind these sorts of things when ebooks were still basically a hobbyist thing that people on the internet did for fun.  We’re a good long way beyond that, though.  No, it doesn’t make a book unreadable most of the time, but it shows a distinct lack of interest in real customer satisfaction.  Like I said, so far it seems to me to primarily apply to older books, but some people do still enjoy books more than five years old.  Wasn’t the point of an Kindle that I would be able to carry my whole library in a pocket?  The device lives up to it, I just want the publishers to do so as well.