Category Archives: eBooks

I won NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winnerIt only took ten years, but I finally won NaNoWriMo.

If you’re not familiar it’s National Novel Writing Month. The goal is start Nov. 1, and by the end of Nov. 30 have 50,000 words written.

Every year for the last ten years I’ve at least done something. Some years it’s been open the site, be too busy to dedicate myself to writing, and close the site. Some years I’ve started writing, either something new, or picked up something I’d started randomly in the year. I’d get various amounts of words in, miss a day, then two, then four then I’d see that I was so far behind the average per day needed to win, I’d give up. Ten Years.

This year, my friend Tom and I both decided we’d do it again, both agreed to give it our all. I was especially motivated because a few months before Tom had shared a manuscript he wrote some 15 odd years before, and after reading it, I was more energized to create my own.

capture-2016-12-01-at-12-33-32-pmI don’t know what was different this year, other than being a bit lighter than usual on “stuff to do” work wise. But I was able to start strong, and even when I fell behind a few times, it was never so much so that it became impossible.

I actually thought I’d crush it over thanksgiving, but did the exact opposite, then when I was in the final week, the little author dashboard on the NaNoWriMo site was like at this pace you’ll finish on Dec. 2. “SO CLOSE” So I made time, and pushed through. I crossed the “finish” line around noonish on the last day.

I think one factor of the win was that I finally found an app I enjoyed using to write. I’ve tried most every app out there aimed at authors, and haven’t loved any. Some of come close, some haven’t, some have simply gone away. Scrivener, is here to stay, the iPad app is great for when I wanted to try to add a few more words but didn’t have my laptop, the Mac app is fairly intuitive to use.

Until the last week, I wasn’t sure I’d finish on time or finish at all. I have to say I’m pretty darned pleased with myself. My plan is to let it sit a week or two, then go back over the story with an eye for cleaning things up. Then anyone who’s interested may read it (warning it’s Sci Fi). Then Maybe I’ll toss it up on Amazon. Who knows.

Any how, wanted to share, because like I said, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

My Thoughts so far with Kindle Unlimited

tl; dr; I like it.

If you’re not familiar Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited a month or less ago (Less for sure since my 30 day trial hasn’t ended yet). The premise is, for $9.99 a month you get unlimited access to something like 500k eBooks.

That number is a little misleading, yes there’s 500k books to be read, but other than a few token high profile titles/series (Hunger Games), it’s largely smaller indie writers work. That’s not a terrible thing, but an observation, and warning, if you’re looking for the big publishers stuff, it’s not here (yet?).

If you like to read, and don’t necessarily care if the writer is famous, etc. You’re in the right place.

I’ve read several books so far (trying to make the most of my free month to see if it’s worth it), and have enjoyed them all.

What I like best:

  • Unlike the Lending Library, you’re not limited to 1 book a month. You can load your Kindle up with several books, from Kindle Unlimited. This is great for stocking up before a trip when network connectivity may not be an option. It’s also nice to not have to remember to come back for a book when you can borrow next. Just add as you come across them.
  • It’s a great way to discover new writers
  • Normally I’m not a renter (don’t like streaming music services, prefer to own TV and movies that I enjoy, DRM free and on my own hard drives) but for books, so far the idea of just borrowing, reading and returning isn’t that bad. When I find something i love, I’ll likely still buy it, but so far knowing the book would go back hasn’t been a big deal. Granted so far I’ve read good books, that i probably wouldn’t have bought, so…

My big issues/questions about Kindle Unlimited are:

  • Other than getting more money from me, why isn’t this part of Amazon Prime? Video streaming is lumped into Prime, why not Kindle Unlimited? To be clear I know it’s likely a legal thing, contracts, rights, etc. but still, I’d like it to be part of my already $100 spend. Heck I’d be happy if it was part of Prime and you had to choose, video or books. I know that sounds like “Gimme more shit for no more cost”, but I’d even be happy it prime was another $10 more. Really it’s just the notion of a separate service, that feels like it shouldn’t be separate.
  • What happens to the Kindle Lending library? This is mostly just a curiosity, but it covers a different selection of books, so I’m curious if they’ll merge or will i still be able to get some bigger name books that way?
  • For now reading more ‘unknown’ writers is totally cool, but at some point I’ll likely want to read something published by the big five, etc. I hope that’s something that works itself out sooner or later. Hopefully sooner, but not holding my breath.

I don’t know the economics, but hope that amazon is treating those who participate in Kindle Unlimited well. I had read somewhere (I hope it was true) that in the Kindle Lending Library model, writers got more when a book was loaned, than they did when it was sold. I find that sad, but hope it’s also true here, in so far as i want to reward those writers I’m reading.

The One Downside of the Hardware Kindle

Ok let’s get a few things out of the way first, since these posts always illicit “I read on my iPad just fine, neener neener.”

  1. Reading on a backlight bugs my eyes.
  2. Reading on my iPad is one distraction after another. Bam new push about a tweet. Bam new article just downloaded. Bam another tweet. Now a message from a friend, why what did so and so post recently? etc. etc.
  3. Kindles are light. I read on the elliptical and hold it when i read. You spend an hour on a machine holding your iPad up and tell me how your arms feel.

Ok now to my point. I recently decided to hijack my wife’s Kindle Touch. She wasn’t using it. I’ve long had and loved what’s now called the Kindle Keyboard. But over the weekend really thought about how often I type on my Kindle. Not often. I highlight a lot of things, and when I make an annotation, it’s usually only a few words. So why lug around a larger kindle that’s a bit heavier? Also Amazon scraps old model support faster than Apple, so the Kindle Keyboard won’t get any new features. Heck the touch might not either but it’s got a few newer ones already.

De registering her account on the Touch, easy. Resetting to clear her data out, easy. Even registering my account on it, easy. Here’s where the process takes a dump. The reason it sucks… because of (shocker) DRM.

I use collections on my Kindle; Sci Fi, Fantasy, Fiction, Business, a few others. I’ve taken to simply storing my books on the kindle vs. removing from device when I finish reading. It’s nice to have all the books there, especially if I want to look something up I know i read a while back. The Kindle indexes all the books on it.

Now you might think it’s as easy as when you get a new iDevice. Restore from back up, etc. You’d be wrong.

And my library isn't as big as many others.

And my library isn’t as big as many others.

Instead what you have to do (Found on the kindle support forums) is manually (via the devices archived items view or the Manage my kindle website) bring each book down to the new device. One at a time. For me that meant picking from all but a few of my 202 books, clicking “send to” then the device I wanted them to show up on.

Then once that was complete, wait while the Kindle indexes all the books.

Then (yeah there’s a lot of “thens”) go into archived items -> Menu -> retrieve collections. Viola, your other registered kindles show up, and with a tap you select the kindle you want to import collections from. Unfortunately the collections are really just meta data, so the books have to be on the device first, and fully indexed. A few while later, you’re all set, new device, collections from your other device.

What a waste of time and effort. Why? From what I’ve read it’s a DRM thing, each device you download the book onto imprints it’s PID on it (The unique ID of the device). so simply copying over the entire library from one device to another can’t work, because the books need to be associated to this new devices PID.  What a bunch of shit. There’s at least a few easier solutions I can think of off the top of my head. One would be…

I already have to associate a kindle with my Amazon account, logging in on the device. Why not associate the books with my account (maybe a unique ID based on my account) vs. the device I’m keeping them on. That would enable a new kindle to simply import from another so long as it’s tied to the same account. You can limit the number of devices just like Apple does, etc.

Why punish the consumer who buys a new device? It was a 30 minute(ish) problem this weekend with 202 books, what about when I own 500 books? 1000 books? Amazon (and publishers) expect me to grab a snack, a cup of coffee and sit down to start manually downloading each book i own, all over again.

Talk about an incentive to not buy a new Kindle very often.

Of course I could take the time to strip the DRM out of each book i buy, up until now I was happy to play along with Amazon’s DRM solution, but I’m re-thinking that now.

The problem with eBook pricing

I saw this NYT blog post and retweeted it (props to @datingdad) with “Good for amazon”

My friend Dave (@courier_new) asked some questions clarifying my position, so I thought I’d write my thoughts up (not new here, check the eBooks category) in a bit more than 140 chars.

Publishers are fighting companies like Amazon on eBook pricing. Many have won with agency pricing. Agency pricing lets the publisher set the price and more often than not you see this.

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If Your Customer Wants to Pay You. Figure out a Way to Take Their Money

This will be a short one as it just popped in to my head as I emailed my friend Tim. He sent me a reading list for some Green Lantern comics because i mentioned I was reading some. The Comic reader i use on my Kindle Fire (awesome comic reader, BTW) posts to Facebook when I finish an issue.

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The Kindle Fire is a great second tablet

My friend Jeffry sent me a Kindle Fire last week. He’s awesome! You should check out his Flex components if you’re a flex/AIR developer looking for some awesome turn key components. Ok that said, he sent me a kindle Fire.

I’ve been a Kindle owner since the K2 came out, and I paid almost $400 for it. I dropped it one morning and busted the screen, and bought a K3 for 1/3 the price of my K2, and I love it. It’s light, easy to use and great at the one thing it does, display words on a readable screen. Continue reading